Jory Micah had another response to my last blog post, and once again she proved herself able to handle a disagreement in a mature fashion. Kudos on going to an exegetical argument – that’s the place where this discussion can actually get some traction.
One possible confusion, however, is that I think Jory may be interacting with what she thinks is my view on gender roles, but which I myself would never claim. She seems to think that the fact that I disagree with feminism tells her all she needs to know about my position. But I grew up in Moscow, and Doug Wilson is my dad, and to be honest that’s like saying I grew up in Sherwood Forest. Lines are drawn a bit differently here and we don’t fit neatly into categories. People can shout all they want about Doug the Great Misogynist Oppressor, but he started the schools which his daughters attended, and he made sure that we had years of Latin and years of Greek and Physics and Logic and Classical History and Classical Lit and Church History and Philosophy and Apologetics and Doctrine and Rhetoric and Poetry. He raised his girls (who are now raising his grand-daughters) to argue and scrap and think for themselves and study and own businesses and write books and, yes, submit to their own husbands as to the Lord. But he also made dang sure that those husbands were worth submitting to. (I can hear the internet yelling already! Aagh! Courtship model! The injustice! Where are my smelling salts!?!)
But as far as Jory’s article goes, one contradiction jumped out at me right at the beginning – possibly because she put both statements in bold. The first was, “What I did not enjoy was your assumption that my feelings control how I interpret the Bible.” But a scarce three paragraphs later she said, “As much as you and I both don’t want to admit it, our feelings and experiences … will always creep into our interpretations of the Bible.” I’m not sure which one of these actually represents Jory’s view, so I’m not sure which to interact with. But it seems like what she’s trying to say is that we are all impeded by the fact that we see the Scriptures through the lens of our own finitude, and it’s only through careful study that we can transcend our subjective assumptions and move into a place where we are no longer hampered by feelings. Perhaps? I’m going to assume that’s where she’s coming from.
She goes on to say that she does understand that on the surface, Scripture appears to be teaching one thing about gender roles, and it’s only after “years of research” that we can let go of our pre-conceived notions and see the Scriptures for what they really are. In order to do this, she tells us, we need to put ourselves in the apostle Paul’s shoes and understand the context in which he he was writing. I somewhat agree. I teach Classical Lit and Classical History, and I’m constantly amazed by how relevant those subjects are in bringing more light to both the Old and the New Testaments. Nevertheless, the idea that Scripture is impenetrable – or worse, misleading – unless one has devoted years to academic study is a very dangerous idea. One of the great blessings of the Reformation was abolishing the separation of the common man from the Word of God. The Reformers heavily emphasized the perspicuity of Scripture – the understanding that “not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding.” It would be tragic, in my opinion, to regress back into the pre-Reformational notion that only trained professionals should be trusted with the Word of God. And to replace the church hierarchy with the Academy doesn’t make it any better. Claiming that your average Christian is unable to correctly understand God’s Word is – well – medieval. It is vital, in my view, that any Christian woman, in any century, in any part of the world, should be able to open her Bible and find in it clear teaching on how she should live without having to be a PhD candidate.
Jory also asks how I reconcile 1 Timothy 2:12, “I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man,” with the fact that I teach high school boys. This, I think, diverts us into a different discussion which is more one of ecclesiology. I have no problem with teaching Anglo Saxon poetry to high school boys, and yes, I have students who are over 18. And that troubles me not one bit. Worse, I recently got up and spoke to the student body of New St. Andrews on the subject of women in education – and the audience contained not only all the male college students, but also all of the male faculty (including my father and my husband). So why do I draw the distinction between that and preaching? Because I don’t believe, as Jory appears to, that the office of preacher is a “human made idea” or that a sermon is just one person hogging the conversation. When the pastor steps into the pulpit (or cultural equivalent) during corporate worship, something very different is going on than the other interactions of believers throughout the week. The Sunday morning preaching – speaking as the oracles of God – is a far cry from, “Everyone take out your paper because we’re going to practice writing iambic pentameter,” or even – to my senior Apologetics class, “Open to Proverbs 26:4 and we’re going to discuss how this applies to Presuppositional Apologetics.” Obviously this brings with it a host of questions about application which would take far longer to thrash out – how about Wednesday Bible studies etc., but that’s a big subject for another time.
Jory then goes on to cite the various women in Scripture who did impressive things – and she seems to think that these women are a problem for my position. She even goes so far as to say, “The truth is that you don’t have the answers to these questions because no complementarian does.” I’m sorry, but that’s just silly. Let’s cruise the list and see if there are any answers.
Why did the apostle Paul praise Junia as outstanding along with many other female leaders in the New Testament?
Well first, because they were praiseworthy. And they did good work. For the gospel. And they should have done those things. Good job Junia! But I also think that Jory might have just done a bit of sleight of hand there with the “other female leaders.” That seems to assume what it needs to prove – and perhaps we’re speculating a bit much with no textual evidence if we’re trying to pretend that Junia and the other women were elders and preachers.
Why did he call women his co-workers in Philippians 4:3?
I’m sorry. Is this a trick question? Because they labored with him for the gospel. But it’s a bit naive to think everyone on a team plays the same position. Is the fact that they were co-laborers supposed to be proof that these women were elders and ministers? Is every soldier in an army a general? Is every player on a team the first baseman? Is every part of the body the eye? That just seems weird.
What about all the sociological / historical evidence that women hosted and led house churches in the first and second centuries?
That sounds interesting. What’s the sociological evidence? But further – how would we make the leap from “they did it in the early church” to “and they ought to have done that”? I mean, I can make a very strong case that those early churches whiffed it on a whole number of fronts. (Drunkenness at the Lord’s Supper, incest, etc.) Why do we think that Paul had to write those instructions to Timothy in the first place? Presumably because it was a live issue that the early church needed sorted. Show me a woman preaching in the second century and I’ll show you a woman who shouldn’t have been.
Jory also makes the claim that the Greek word kephale (head) does not actually imply “authority” in other ancient texts. She has clearly done a lot of work on this question, and I have a feeling that I should read her thesis on it before trying to interact with that precise question since it’s obviously a much bigger discussion. But I can tell her how I personally think the word should be translated and what it should imply. Let’s just pretend the word used in Ephesians 5 for “head” was a hapax legomenon . . . a one-off. Let’s pretend that we don’t know what it means, we have no other usages of it in the ancient world whatsoever, and the only thing the lexicons can do is point us back to this particular usage. I would argue that the context itself gives us a very clear understanding of what that word entails. Let’s just substitute “x” for “head” and see if we can figure out what it means.
“Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the “x” of the wife, just as Christ is the “x” of the church.”
Hmm. Does “x” imply authority? Well, what is the text saying? Does Christ have authority over the church? Is the church supposed to submit to Christ? Is the wife supposed to submit to her husband? Is that kind of the point of the whole verse? Is this a complicated question? Do I need years of study and a lexicon to figure out what I’m supposed to do here?
Lastly, Jory claims that it’s quite audacious for me to “limit half the church.” But first, I’m not the one doing it – this was God’s idea not mine. And secondly, acting as if this is a limitation is just funny. It’s like just deciding in advance to be surly at the universe and look at everything in the grumpiest way possible. It’s like saying that sunflowers are being unfairly put upon because they can’t grow in window boxes. Or birds are being robbed of their opportunities because they can’t swim. Or men are being cruelly limited in their options because they can’t get pregnant.
There are loads of things I can’t do, and I can’t do them because God just didn’t make me that way. It’s a creational impossibility for me to be a contortionist, for instance, because my joints just don’t work that way. I couldn’t be an astro-physicist even if I wanted to because I flat don’t have the brains. There is no chance that I could be an opera singer because God didn’t give me that voice. And I can’t be a preacher because I’m not a man. But why on earth would I look at all the things I can’t do because of the way God made me (without even consulting me first of all the audacity!) and kick up a fuss about being limited? I’m not limited. There’s SO much in front of me, so much good work for me to do, and life’s too short for me to fit it all in. I can’t possibly get it all done. I could spend my time wishing that God had made me very tiny so that I could have been a gymnast and fussing about how limiting I find it that he instead made me 5’9”, and I could spend my time wishing that God had made me a man and feeling cruelly oppressed and resentful. I could devote my life to insisting that I be allowed to preach on Sundays . . . but all of these are ways that I could just take myself out of the game so that I can sit on the bench and feel sorry for myself and not actually contribute to the mission God gave us. But what I would prefer to do is to actually look at the work he has put in front of me, look at the tools he has handed me, tackle it, and try to make the most of what I’ve been given. The feminist agenda is just a total and complete failure of imagination, and a fussy one at that. There are cultures to build women! Get out there and do it!
Indulge me with one more metaphor. God has enrolled you in Le Cordon Bleu and bought you a ticket to Paris. But you’re sulking about it because you’ve seen people who cook tater tot casserole and that doesn’t seem fun to you. In fact, you find tater tots insulting. You have met patriarchy nerds who refused to let their wives cook anything else. You view tin foil pans and frozen tots with disdain. You don’t see why God would insist that you have to cook tater tot casserole for the rest of your life . . . so you do word studies to prove that you shouldn’t be required to attend Le Cordon Bleu, and you staunchly refuse to go. You have kicked up a mutiny and are devoting your life to debunking the tater tot, and finding other women who will stand bravely by your side in this fight for freedom.
But who is limiting whose options here? Whose imagination is it that can’t transcend tater tots? Well there are two groups actually, who can’t get beyond the tots. First, the mysoginists – who insist that’s all that women can be trusted with – and the feminists, who fight valiantly against Le Cordon Bleu’s despotic tater tot policies. But I guarantee you that if you would just get on that plane, tater tots would be the last thing you would find.
There’s a world to conquer ladies. There is a culture to build. The men can’t do it alone – just think of the mess they’d make of it. So step into your place in the shield wall and pick up the weapons God has given you. No, they’re not the same as the men’s . . . but as long as you’re fussing about that you’re going to be incredibly ineffective in this battle. Pick up your own weapons, and then don’t leave this life without leaving a mark.
But if you decide to sit this one out, if you decide that you’re not interested in taking dominion the way God has told you to, if you’re going to retreat from your place in the battle, then at least don’t pretend like you’re the one on the front lines.