Headship, Submission and Fear-based Logic

November 27, 2006

patriarchy-anger.jpgKeep alert for Dr. Steven Tracy’s writings on this topic. I have read his two most recent papers presented at the Evangelical Theological Society meetings of 2005 and 2006 and he presents balanced and cogent arguments for the reasonableness of patriarchy. He promotes both the ideal of a servant-leader, to who submission is pretty easy, as well as the limits of submission, which keeps women from becoming second-class citizens. It seems to me that the arguments against male leadership are based on a logic of fear and false inference. St. Paul faced the same problem after writing Romans 6 in which he states that grace abounds where sin is prevalent. He anticipates the fearful reaction that the message of grace allows for sin and could lead to a life of license. To that extrapolation and implication, he says “May it never be!” Similarly, does patriarchy lead to abuse? May it never be! The solution to license is not to eliminate grace, but to understand grace properly and practice is faithfully.

Dr. Tracy wrote “Headship with a Heart: How biblical patriarchy actually prevents abuse” for the February 1, 2003 publication of Christianity Today. Here’s part of it.

. . . A man in my congregation confided in me that years ago he had physically and sexually abused several of his children. He had been arrested and participated in court-mandated counseling but had skillfully manipulated the system. His wife tried to protect the children, but the abuse continued for some time. When I asked him why he continued to abuse the children while he was on probation, his answer took my breath away. “I guess I did it because I was the head of the family, and it was my right to do whatever I wanted to my wife and kids.” . . . I wish this were the only time I have heard a man use male headship to justify abuse. . . . Few phrases are more explosive in our culture than male headship. Feminists claim that patriarchy (the affirmation of male authority over females) is the basis for most social pathology and for virtually all domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault.

I think woman get angry about weak male leadership as well as about abusive male leadership.  Rather than trying to solve this problem by abolishing male leadership altogether, I think the real solution is for men to learn how to be strong servant-leaders.

George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

November 25, 2006

washington-on-thanksgiving.jpgWhereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. Read the whole proclamation here. More on the history of Thanskgiving at the Covenant News Blog site

The idea of thanksgiving is closely related to remembering the good things God had done on our behalf and praising Him for who he is as well as what he has done.

Eugene Merrill’s paper entitled “Remembering: A Central Theme in Biblical Worship” (published in March 2000) presents a thorough biblical support of this point.  This article is both scholarly and devotional, worthy of reflection.

When the Ark of the Covenant was returned to Jerusalem, King David gave thanks as recorded in I Chronicles 16:8-12 (also in Psalm 105).

Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; Make known His deeds, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders. Glory in His holy name; Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad. Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually. Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done.

All this took place a little over a thousand years before Christ was born. I think that’s a pretty good pattern to follow even today.


What Married Women Want

November 20, 2006


How can you tell when research findings are valid? When they confirm your position! Sociologist Brad Wilcox did that for me in his new study, “What’s Love Got to Do with It? Equality, Equity, Commitment, and Women’s Marital Quality.” Briefly, he concluded the following:

         (1) Women want their husbands to be emotionally engaged, affectionate, empathic and tuned into their wives. Being tuned in is more important than helping with household chores.

(2) Woman whose husbands actively attend church are happier and those marriages are significantly less likely to divorce than the average.

(3) Women want things to be fair in their homes but they do not equate fairness with equality.

(4) Women want the man to be the main provider, creating financial security and freedom to make choices about whether to work a little or a lot.

Stan Guthrie’s entire interview of Dr. Wilcox can be seen by clicking here. At the end of that post, you can find additional interviews about Wilcox’ views on women.

I was particularly encouraged by these findings because my wife agreed that these are the main things that make her happy about me. So ends my need for additional research!

Gender Role Debate: Egalitarian or Complementarian?

November 19, 2006

men-and-women.gifSimply stated, this debate pivots around roles that men and women play in the church and in marriage. One side says there should be no role distinctions (egalitarian) while the other side says there should be a hierachy of roles that influence leadership and submission (complementarian). One of my goals in this blog is to clarify the arguments on both sides of this controversial issue and to invite thoughtful dialogue from both sides. It helps me orient my own view in the context of the wider spectrum of thought and the interaction helps all of us grow in our personal convictions. I also enjoy seeing what I can learn about people in general by the nature of their responses (What do people seek? What do they react to? What emotions drive their reactions?) My visit last week to the Evangelical Theological Society Meeting in Washington DC stirred this particular debate because we heard opposite views voiced by intelligent and spiritually mature people supporting their views from the Bible.

I think one of the clearest concise statement of the debate comes from

When it comes to our understanding of gender roles, the battle lines are often clearly drawn between the “traditional” complementarian view and the more “progressive” egalitarians. In the ongoing debate about male headship, most evangelicals—male or female, married or single—have chosen a side and can defend their position with some degree of skill and persuasiveness.

The Complementarian position is held institutionally by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood whose executive director is Randy Stinson. The egalitarian position is held institutionally by Christians for Biblical Equity Dr. Kevin Giles being a prominent spokesperson for this position. I met Dr. Giles last week and was struck by what a gracious gentleman he is, even though I do not hold his position. Notice that both sides base their views on the Bible. This is a good example of why I believe the Bible is not intended to be the final “handbook” word on all matters of human life. The best summary of each position I know of is by Bruce Ware who delineates the arguments, their biblical support, and the objections from the other side.

I have noticed that most reactions to either view are based on implications of a statement rather than an internal weakness. For example, many argue that the complentarian view allows for male dominance, domestic violence, and the notion that women are second-class citizens. I think this kind of reaction is emotionally based on fear and does not address the basic point.

Let me know your view.


The Heavens and God

November 13, 2006


This incredible picture from the Hubble telescope shows whole galaxies, not stars. I found this person’s web site fascinating for several reasons: (1) he generated several hundred comments from this single post, partly because of his provocative and perhaps inflammatory title “How Hubble Killed God . . .” (2) The comments represent individuals from atheists to irate and rigid Christians. (3) The picture is breathtaking. (4) the bloggers comments invite dialogue.

My personal reaction has nothing to do with whether or not God is dead, but rather how grand and big is God’s glory. It takes me back to Psalm 19 that starts with “The heavens are telling of the glory of God . . .” Now that we can see more of the heavens, my God becomes bigger in my mind and I become that much more special to Him, (“What is man, that Thou dost care for him?” — Psalm 8:4). I am intrigued by the vast range of emotional and mental reactions to the existence of God as much as I am by the vastness of the universe.