Words of a Fether

Opinions on Faith and Life

Deaf And Blind: An Analysis of Flesh-based Theology

In the comedy Murder By Death one of the running gags was between a blind butler and a deaf maid. Even without seeing the movie you can imagine the mishaps. But tragically, this sort of thing is all too common in internet conversations, which I hesitate to call debates since they more resemble the blind and the deaf trying to communicate. Neither side realizes how poor their logic is or can exploit the errors of the other side. In the end, we are left with only the charred remains of all the straw men that have been burned.

To keep in mental shape I like to analyze such comedies of errors, and the object lesson I’ve chosen this time is from A Helper Suitable for Him, part 3 of a series (a series of what, I’ll leave to your imagination). I’ll identify the two sides as MS (male supremacy) and EQ (equality) instead of making you keep track of who is where. Please note that my focus is on poor logic and exegesis, not so much on covering every inch of the gender war, since I’ve done that already.

MS begins with an admission of the error of arguments used to condone slavery in America’s past. But the objection is not to using scripture to condone sin, but to a view very few ever even heard of: that blacks were the beasts of the field! This is an extreme and unrepresentative view of the pro-slavery argument and it is thus fallacious to use against the more widely-held view. Yet as we’ll see later, MS will deny EQ the use of what MS considers extreme and unrepresentative views. So from the start we are dealing with a double standard.

The offensive story had the purpose of setting up the cultural argument; that is, its purpose was to burn the straw man that EQ bows to culture. MS completely ignores the fact that the arguments used to prop up MS are identical to those used to prop up slavery, as I’ve already explained in my post Sound Familiar?. It was pro-slavery that bowed to culture then, and it is MS which bows to culture now. They deny this on the basis that the US and much of the west has finally recognized the equal humanity, intelligence, and spirituality of women, but since culture is somehow always bad, Christians must not bow to this. Yet historically, as MS admits when appealing to God’s order, culture has been patriarchal, not EQ. So who is really bowing to culture, and why isn’t it bowing when the culture is patriarchal? The fact is that MS wants the culture argument to be a chameleon that makes culture good for them but bad for EQ.

MS attempts to sidestep this problem by claiming that all historical forms of patriarchy that don’t meet its particular sensibilities are another extreme, which allows them to claim their own view as the middle. But as I’ve shown before in A False Dichotomy, and as one EQ points out in the comments, bad MS and good MS differ only in degree on one side of the fulcrum; the opposite bad extreme is not EQ but FS or female superiority. And yes, there are and have been societies that held to this. MS is hoping to get away with the fallacy of ignoring a large and significant portion of the debate so as to present its own side as the middle ground when it clearly is not.

The irony of this is that EQ, which by definition is the lack of extremity, is turned into something as bad as the blacks are the beasts of the field argument. This too is a fallacy, one of guilt by association or poisoning the well. Then MS asserts that hermeneutics follow cultural shifts, but misses yet another irony in that its own view can be charged with this as well. While the secular culture remains largely egalitarian, the church culture is being pushed back into MS and making up new exegesis to match it (e.g. the eternal subordination of the Son). As MS pointed out in the extreme example, this was not secular culture supporting slavery but the church culture, and the same is true of MS.

To drive the fallacies even deeper, MS portrays EQ as the modern feminist perspective to assign guilt by association with radical, anti-Christian feminism. And history is ignored here as well; it was mainly Christian women who pushed for equal rights, objecting to having no vote, no right to personal property, no justice against rape, enduring spousal abuse, etc.

The MS position then proceeds to the very fallacious but common equal in being, unequal in role assertion. As Rebecca Groothuis has argued many times, it is doublespeak to make hierarchy on the basis of ontology an equality of being. That is, if one group of people is assigned a permanent, involuntary, subservient role on the basis of race, sex, or any other genetic trait, that is not role playing but a statement of lesser worth as a person. Only in an Orwellian Newspeak dictionary can permanently lower rank be made into equality of being. Unlike the soldier who can rise in rank, the employee who can start their own business, the child who grows up, or the citizen who can move to another country, a woman cannot stop being a woman; femaleness is an aspect of being, an intrinsic quality. So to subjugate (regardless of the manner of subjugation) on that basis is to make woman of lesser worth or value. To claim otherwise is to redefine words to suit one’s prejudice. So platitudes about separate but equal are nothing better or different from the old pro-slavery arguments.

MS continues also to commit ad hominem against EQ by accusing it of being shaped more by cultural, feminist doctrine that[sic] by biblical exegesis and of being guilty of exegetical carelessness. Before EQ is even presented, it is tainted with the charge that it has a low view of scripture. MS assigns to only EQ the practice of making mountains out of molehills, but as anyone familiar with these teachings can see, that charge is at least as true of MS which typically builds enormous edifices from a few proof-texts. It is especially notorious for reading quite a lot between the lines in Genesis.

MS then appeals again to its own private definition for the various views, and wishes to retain the right to have subtleties while denying them to EQ (as when it lumps EQ with radical feminism). But the fact remains that there are exactly two extremes: MS and FS, with EQ being the true middle point. Either there is hierarchy or there is not; either there is a difference of intrinsic worth before God or there is not; either the flesh is of primary importance in the church or it is not. And while MS would surely cry false dilemma in all this, it cannot deny that some things really are black and white, such as male and female. Not every line can be blurred, which ironically is a charge often made by MS against EQ. This is another double standard: subtlety and nuance and shades of gray for me but not for you.

MS reiterates points from a previous post about Gen. 1, admitting that both male and female are made in the direct image of God. But the separate but equal ploy is inserted from the literal beginning, and here the charge is that without hierarchy there would be no difference between the two at all; that is, we blur the line between the sexes if we don’t embrace hierarchy between them. I pointed out the ridiculousness of such a view in my analysis of the Trinity debate.

At this point MS introduces the very familiar helper means less in rank argument. As EQ points out in the comments, God is a helper as well, and the Hebrew terms mean a strong ally coming to the aid of one who cannot stand alone. This is hardly a picture of a secretary or assistant in business, but more like the left and right hands. Can we say that our hands are indistinguishable because they both have 4 fingers and a thumb and one does not boss the other? We can if we follow the MS argument between male and female. True complementation is when the hands work together, such that the MS definition of the word is novel and Orwellian. God did design male and female to be complementary, but never put one over the other as a divine order, any more than He decreed that the right hand should always rule the left.

MS misinterprets Genesis by saying that Adam affirms that she is what he wants when Eve is made. Adam said no such thing, but only that she was bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Though the animals were made from the same soil as he, Adam recognized that Eve was not, but was in fact one in substance with him; she was his clone! Adam and Eve were both given authority over the other soil-formed creatures, such that the source of one’s genes could not be a statement of authority at all. And that Eve was made for Adam in no way signifies her inferiority since we know that it is the one needing help who could possibly be lacking or inferior in some way. If I need help from a doctor, is the doctor the one who is lacking? And if I pay the doctor, is he or she my underling? MS would whine about misrepresentation or extremes here, but the analogy applies perfectly: the one needing help is the one lacking something, and the one providing help is not the underling of the one receiving it.

In yet another glaring irony, MS cites the basis of marriage being that a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wive. Who does the leaving and joining to whom? Isn’t the one who has to give up his parents and join to the other the inferior? Why not? In our western culture, even today, women typically are the ones who are expected to give up their inherited surname and join to the man; is this not a direct violation against the clear command of God? And if she is the one doing what the man was supposed to do, then why is she seen as lower in rank? MS simply cannot make up its mind on exegesis; there is no consistency at all but only a double standard.

MS claims that the facts are not really in doubt in this passage but has already wildly misinterpreted them, as well as mistaking those interpretations for facts. As we’ve seen, the facts are that the man is supposed to give up his parents and join to his wife, both male and female rule over the creatures made from the same soil as Adam, Eve was Adam’s equal, and the helper is not lower in rank than the one needing help. Those are indisputable facts of scripture and plain sense. MS has ignored its double standard and wedged hierarchy between the lines, building facts from mere vapors.

And if man and woman complement each other then hierarchy cannot apply or it isn’t complementation at all. EQ would wholeheartedly agree that the gender wars were not part of God’s created intent, but this war has been waged on the basis of the poorest reading comprehension and logic in favor of male flesh, just as God predicted when He said to Eve, you will turn to your husband and he will rule over you. That, not feminism or culture, is the cause of the gender war.

As for the fundamental difference between male and female, nobody disputes the physical differences. What we dispute is the notion that the helper is beneath the helpee in some way, or that there are Biblical or mental/emotional differences between the sexes that essentially make them two different species. If a woman is by nature less capable than a man in spiritual or mental ability, then she is a lesser human. Unless a trait is without exception in a group of people, that trait cannot be intrinsic; unless ALL women without exception are less spiritually or mentally capable than ALL men, then there are no essential differences between them beyond physical strength and reproductive function, and even in the case of physical strength there are women who are stronger than men. MS typically (and according to that double standard again) appeals to culture here, citing secular pop psychology as normative and intrinsic, but above all, divinely mandated. MS cannot merely present its assertion to the contrary and expect it to be on a par with fact.

As for order of creation, EQ points out in the comments what a ridiculous argument this is. It is the fallacy of special pleading to make order only significant between male and female while ignoring it between man and animals. Order, in and of itself, is not only never stated in scripture as signifying authority, but God had a penchant for overturning that very claim whenever He did intervene in history: Abel over Cain, Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, David over 7 older brothers, and tiny Israel over much larger and stronger nations. If God is showing us anything in this, it is that cultural norms of first come, first served are NOT His divine order.

According to its double standard, MS admits that being a helper does not imply order in and of itself, in spite of having just made that very claim for creation order. But who would be offended by Eve being the helper? Shouldn’t MS be offended about this, since it was clearly only Adam who lacked something? MS arguing that EQ should be offended simply defies all reason, not to mention negating the point it’s trying to make about the helper not being intrinsically of less rank. If helper is a specifically feminine role in the Creation narrative, then it is Adam who is being presented as the lesser of the two, not Eve. MS even turns around yet again to say that worth has nothing to do with this, but that somehow it does make the woman inferior to the man in some way. MS cannot make up its mind or is incapable of grasping the self-contradictory nature of its argument.

Incredibly, after such a twisted contradictory argument, MS appeals to Ockham’s Razor (simplest solution is best). If, by making Eve the helper of Adam, God was making a statement of intrinsic difference between all men and all women, then the simplest interpretation is that the woman provides what the man lacks; he is in need of her but she is not in need of him. How any one-way subservient role got into this simple and obvious scripture passage is anybody’s guess. But it comes as no surprise that its motivation appeals to male flesh and makes what is essentially idolatry into God’s divine order. MS doesn’t like to hear that but it is the simple truth: for any human being to treat another human being as their spiritual intermediary or permanent authority based on nothing but the flesh is idolatry, pure and simple.

Of course it follows then that for MS the creation story fits perfectly with their system, based as it is on pitiful logic and adding to the text. The three facts are not in dispute when we use the normal meanings of words, but only when MS uses the doubspeak dictionary to make complementation into hierarchy, equal being into unequal rank, and the God who looks not on the outside but on the heart into a respecter of persons. And who defines what it means to behave as a man or a woman? Are women not to be courageous, bold, loyal, independent, or strong? Are men not to be loving, compassionate, nurturing, peaceful, self-controlled, or quiet? No such roles are found anywhere in scripture as divine mandates, as we see both men and women behaving in ways MS would deem sinful but God approved and commended. MS is promoting pop psychology, not divine mandate; it would freeze humanity in 1950s Ozzie and Harriette America, just as Islam would freeze humanity in 600s Arabia.

My Conclusion of course is that MS is a self-contradictory, flesh-based, twisted teaching that hobbles the Body of Christ by making one half report to the other instead of to its one and only Head. Indeed, who are we to believe that we can improve on God’s creation by imposing a masculinist, male-supremacist ethic which is contrary to the way that God made us? Let MS answer that question and stop pointing to the speck in EQ’s eye. MS has done more to emaciate the Body of Christ and turn the world against the gospel than perhaps any other false teaching ever invented. It can part with white supremacy or Jewish supremacy but will not let go of male supremacy, though IN CHRIST we are all to be ONE.

And as I’ve said before, the degree of MS is irrelevant; it is not Biblical or logical to turn NO lording over into KIND lording over, or to make Jesus’ example of the alleged servant leader only for half His followers. Jesus gave up His privilege as God to become one of us, not to be served but to serve, yet MS would refuse to follow that example or to humbly wash the feet of women, insisting instead to be the one that sits at the table and is served. Shame on them all!

(PS: I had originally intended to analyze the comments as well, but this is getting to be a long post so I’ll stop here.)

Posted 2010-12-04 under women, Bible Text, hypocrisy, subordination, hierarchy, egalitarian, male supremacism