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Words of a Fether

Opinions on Faith and Life

The Danvers Statement

I will now examine the definitive document of the modern male supremacist movement, The Danvers Statement. But note the date: December 1987. This was the same year that Christians for Biblical Equality (see especially their About page) began work on their journal, The Priscilla Papers.

The statement is in two sections: Rationale and Affirmations. I will comment on each point.

Rationale

We have been moved in our purpose by the following contemporary developments which we observe with deep concern:

  1. The widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity; Aside from not citing any study which would verify the claim that there is in fact “widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture” on this matter, what does that which is outside the church have to do with what is inside (1 Cor. 5:12)? Should we be surprised that unbelievers act like unbelievers? Why are they not also concerned about far more destructive things like spouse and child abuse, “lording over”, and dictatorial “pastors” in the churches?
  2. the tragic effects of this confusion in unraveling the fabric of marriage woven by God out of the beautiful and diverse strands of manhood and womanhood; Again, are they talking about inside or outside the churches? Our culture is rapidly dissolving into barbarism, with men being encouraged to be “alpha males”, and this cultural decadence is infiltrating the churches. This has far more “tragic effects” than women not keep their place. (Note: I will keep highlighting the overuse of adjectives throughout.)
  3. the increasing promotion given to feminist egalitarianism with accompanying distortions or neglect of the glad harmony portrayed in Scripture between the loving, humble leadership of redeemed husbands and the intelligent, willing support of that leadership by redeemed wives; What is “feminist egalitarianism”? Does it mean all women are equal to all other women? Who would disagree with that? Obviously, they wish to tie the belief that women and men are equal in Christ, with secular radical feminism that supports abortion and homosexuality. Shall we, in turn, equate “complementarianism” with a slippery slope to wife abuse, and shall we remind them that many patriarchal societies are also steeped in homosexuality? In addition, this defamatory charge is said to be the cause of “distortions” or “neglect”. How can equality distort, and in a way that supremacism does not? Only by presuming that inequality is God’s design and ideal can equality be labeled a distortion. And do they think that the adjectives describing the husband’s rule over his wife can turn the reality of that inequality into a new definition of equality of being?
  4. the widespread ambivalence regarding the values of motherhood, vocational homemaking, and the many ministries historically performed by women; “Historically”? This is not an appeal to scripture but to culture. What they want is “the good old days” of unquestioned male rule in all spheres of life. They wish to do what they routinely accuse egalitarians of doing: bow to culture.
  5. the growing claims of legitimacy for sexual relationships which have Biblically and historically been considered illicit or perverse, and the increase in pornographic portrayal of human sexuality; We all agree that perversion and adultery are sins-- as is use of porn, “lording over”, mental and physical abuse of anyone, pride, legalism, abortion, and many others. This is not caused by improper or distorted views of alleged flesh-based roles but of sin. Will they finally tell Christian men to take responsibility for their being the “demand” for the “supply” of prostitution? Do they actually wish to blame egalitarians for this?
  6. the upsurge of physical and emotional abuse in the family; And exactly how does egalitarian teaching foment this in a way that male entitlement does not? By simply listing all these things which are really matters of universal human sin in a statement on gender roles, the implication is that egalitarianism is the cause.
  7. the emergence of roles for men and women in church leadership that do not conform to Biblical teaching but backfire in the crippling of Biblically faithful witness; Amen! This role playing must stop. Those who invented the term and who loudly proclaim that women must play “Son” to men’s “Father” are indeed “crippling” our witness as believers; I’ve seen this hundreds of times in statements by those who have rejected Christianity for this reason.
  8. the increasing prevalence and acceptance of hermeneutical oddities devised to reinterpret apparently plain meanings of Biblical texts; I’ve listed some of those “hermeneutical oddities” in my critiques of various male supremacist teachings.
  9. the consequent threat to Biblical authority as the clarity of Scripture is jeopardized and the accessibility of its meaning to ordinary people is withdrawn into the restricted realm of technical ingenuity; Double amen! Scripture is first of all decreed to teach male supremacism, then proof-texts are marshaled in support. Context is ignored and novel twists are applied with impunity, showing great hypocrisy in the process, for when the “plain reading” says something like “a woman has authority over her own head” (1 Cor. 11:10) they change scripture to “a woman has a sign of male authority over her head”. They issue disclaimers when Jesus treats women on an equal basis with men, and are not even above doing a “gender bender” on poor Junia (Rom. 16:7) to make sure God can’t call any woman an apostle. They also invent terms like “role” and “headship”.
  10. and behind all this the apparent accommodation of some within the church to the spirit of the age at the expense of winsome, radical Biblical authenticity which in the power of the Holy Spirit may reform rather than reflect our ailing culture. Triple amen! They want us to go back to treating women as property, as slaves, as possessions devoid of any personality or autonomy as adult human beings. That has been the cultural norm for almost all of human history, across cultures and religions. And who is attacking the authority of scripture more than those who change women’s names to men’s in the Bible, or who put words in Paul’s mouth that actually came from the Talmud, or purposely make every Greek reference to “people” mean “males” by insisting that it always be translated “men”?

Affirmations

Based on our understanding of Biblical teachings, we affirm the following: At this point it is obvious that their “understanding of Biblical teachings” needs a lot of work. But let’s see what building they construct upon this foundation of sand they’ve been using instead of scripture.

  1. Both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, equal before God as persons and distinct in their manhood and womanhood (Gen 1:26-27, 2:18). This is a major “duh”. Nobody disputes this. What is it doing here? And what exactly is “manhood and womanhood” as opposed to simply “male and female” as God stated it? We can see that they are “priming the pump” here, that is, they are introducing extra-Biblical terminology for which they will subsequently supply their own meanings.
  2. Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart (Gen 2:18, 21-24, 1 Cor 11:7-9, 1 Tim 2:12-14). “Roles”? What was Eve told to do that is distinctly different from what Adam was told to do? Both were charged with having dominion over the animals and plants (Gen. 1:28), and neither was ever given authority over the other. The only possible distinction between them, beyond the physical, was that only Adam was told to guard the garden-- a task he failed miserably at doing. In fact, we see in those early chapters of Genesis that first God charged Adam with guarding, second He said it was not good for the man to be alone, and third He made Eve to be an ezer kenegdo which is “a strong one facing him”, an ally or partner. It is the equality with which God ordained men and women that “should find an echo in every human heart”.
  3. Adam’s headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall, and was not a result of sin (Gen 2:16-18, 21-24, 3:1-13, 1 Cor. 11:7-9). Gen. 2:16-18 says absolutely nothing about “headship” of Adam over Eve; neither does any of the other references in Genesis. I’ve gone over the rationale for hierarchy in chronology, naming, etc. many times already and won’t repeat it here. As for 1 Cor. 11:7-9, not only is “headship” absent, but as already mentioned the authority is held by the woman over her own head. Did they not read verse 11 either? And will they continue to ignore Gen. 3:16b where God tells Eve that when she chooses to follow Adam out of the garden, that “he will rule over you”? If Adam already had rule, God would not have put this in the future, or He would have said how this rule was now changed in character.
  4. The Fall introduced distortions into the relationships between men and women (Gen 3:1-7, 12, 16). No kidding. God said so point blank in Gen. 3:16b. The distortion is that Adam would rule over Eve.
    • In the home, the husband’s loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity; the wife’sintelligent, willing submission tends to be replaced by usurpation or servility. No, the husband never had anything like “headship” before the Fall so there was nothing for the wife to usurp. In fact, it is the man who has usurped the place of God in the woman’s life by presuming authority over her; God’s statement to Eve was a prediction, not a command or curse. And domination, passivity, and servility are aspects of our sinful world, not something that equality of men and women can be blamed for. What male supremacy teaches is that in practice the female is indeed servile to the male no matter what, for her whole life. Calling such male domination “loving, humble” or any other such euphemisms does not change the fact.
    • In the church, sin inclines men toward a worldly love of power or an abdication of spiritual responsibility, and inclines women to resist limitations on their roles or to neglect the use of their gifts in appropriate ministries. They know that “sin inclines men toward a worldly love of power” but turn right around and grant that power to them over women! And where is this alleged “spiritual responsibility” that only Christian men possess? But most appalling is their setting up of women to view their resistance to this male usurpation as sin! What better way to keep women from stopping the sinful tendency of men to dominate? And who has decreed these “limitations on their roles”? Not God. There are no “pink” and “blue” lists of spiritual gifts or service anywhere in the NT; neither are there any lists of flesh-based “appropriate ministries”.
  5. The Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, manifests the equally high value and dignity which God attached to the roles of both men and women (Gen 1:26-27, 2:18, Gal 3:28). Both Old and New Testaments also affirm the principle of male headship in the family and in the covenant community (Gen .2:18, Eph. 5:21-33, Co.l 3:18-19, 1 Tim. 2:11-15). God did no such thing; He did not attach dignity to any roles but to people. Check each of those references and see if you can find evidence of God putting man over woman; I’ve gone over those many times. It is not scripture but their interpretations and adding words where there are none in the Greek that they use to support their craving of the seat of power.
  6. Redemption in Christ aims at removing the distortions introduced by the curse. Yes, it does. And male supremacy is one of those distortions that need to be removed. So also is the willingness of women to look to men instead of God, which was Eve’s great blunder and legacy— a blunder male supremacists today wish all women to repeat.
    • In the family, husbands should forsake harsh or selfish leadership and grow in love and care for their wives; wives should forsake resistance to their husbands’ authority and grow in willing, joyful submission to their husbands’ leadership (Eph 5:21-33, Col 3:18-19, Tit 2:3-5, 1 Pet 3:1-7). So husbands are the authorities and leaders, and wives are not allowed to resist them. How convenient; how fleshly; how worldly. Statements like these deny the ones given earlier; they can’t have it both ways. And exactly what recourse does the submissive, joyful, compliant, childlike wife have if her husband does not rule benevolently over her? The typical response, which is loudly denied in theory but amply attested in practice, is that she should “submit better”. Yes, “that woman you gave me...” (Gen. 3:12) is to blame.
    • In the church, redemption in Christ gives men and women an equal share in the blessings of salvation; nevertheless, some governing and teaching roles within the church are restricted to men (Gal. 3:28, 1 Cor. 11:2-16, 1 Tim. 2:11-15). Again, I’ve covered all those alleged proofs of God doling out spiritual positions based upon the flesh. They use “nevertheless” like the fine print in a long legal document, which gives them loopholes from the much clearer scriptures about not lording over each other. Do they actually think Jesus meant “Rule benevolently” when He actually said “Don’t rule at all” (Mt. 20:20-28)? Are we to deduce from His example cited in Phil 2:5-11 that men are above Him because they, unlike Him, do not have to lay privilege aside to serve their wives?
  7. In all of life Christ is the supreme authority and guide for men and women, so that no earthly submission— domestic, religious, or civil— ever implies a mandate to follow a human authority into sin (Dan. 3:10-18, Acts 4:19-20, 5:27-29, 1 Pet 3:1-2). And there are few greater sins than pride and the desire to have first place. Any man who teaches that women must not resist him is playing the role of God to her and is therefore guilty of blasphemy, and any woman who so bows to her husband and “looks to him as she has looked to Christ” (see these sample wedding vows and my rebuttal) is guilty of idolatry. So we must refuse to follow these male supremacist teachers into sin.
  8. In both men and women a heartfelt sense of call to ministry should never be used to set aside Biblical criteria for particular ministries (1 Tim 2:11-15, 3:1-13, Tit. 1:5-9). Rather, Biblical teaching should remain the authority for testing our subjective discernment of God’s will. So these proud men have declared that even if God calls a woman to “ministry”, she is to “resist” that call and follow the “roles” men have assigned to her. Like the Sanhedrin they say to women, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name”, but our response is that of the apostles: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:28-29) The problem is not egalitarians ignoring scripture, but male supremacists equating their interpretation with divine utterance. Again, to disagree with them is not to disagree with God nor to downplay the authority of scripture. God is still not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), nor has He decided to start looking on the outside (1 Sam. 16:7).
  9. With half the world’s population outside the reach of indigenous evangelism; with countless other lost people in those societies that have heard the gospel; with the stresses and miseries of sickness, malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy, ignorance, aging, addiction, crime, incarceration, neuroses, and loneliness, no man or woman who feels a passion from God to make His grace known in word and deed need ever live without a fulfilling ministry for the glory of Christ and the good of this fallen world (1 Cor 12:7-21). Ironically, these people would hamstring half the Body of Christ and forbid half the workers from going out to the harvest. They imply here that women can perform their subservient roles in many venues, but even then they forbid women to preach the gospel to men or teach men the scriptures. Hypocritically, they have looked the other way while missionary women did this, because it was done to non-white men, citing limited funds as the excuse. It would be no less offensive and unbiblical to tell men something like, “There are so many other things you can do besides preach and teach the scriptures; be happy in the roles assigned to you. God would never call a man to a ministry that emphasizes service and humility.”
  10. We are convinced that a denial or neglect of these principles will lead to increasingly destructive consequences in our families, our churches, and the culture at large. They all but blame egalitarians for the downfall of the family, the church, and the country— an identical fear tactic used in the past by supporters of slavery, who felt just as strongly that scripture “plainly” condones it.

I cannot begin to calculate the damage done to both ourselves and our witness as Christians because of teachings like these. They dismember Christ and demand that one part not talk directly to the Head; they enable abusive men; they treat grown women like children and daughters like “daddy’s little helpmeet”, which smacks of incest. They promote a religion and life that is indistinguishable from those of the unbelievers throughout history; they add fine print to every promise Jesus made about freedom for the prisoners and unity in His Name, and they make a mockery of the gifts of the Spirit.

This insidious mindset of privilege and lording over must be strongly opposed and relentlessly exposed. How many women have turned to wicca or paganism in response to such poison? How many atheists have written off a god that would make one half the population masters over the other, benevolent or not, and on such a ridiculous basis as one’s reproductive organs? And what will God say in judgment upon those who so badly handled His Word and painted Him in the image of fallen man?

Away with such “statements”; back to the Cross!

Posted 2009-05-03 under Bible Text, Nature of God, Organization, Christian Living, women, Other Religions, male supremacism, cbmw, danvers