Opinions on faith and life

A False Dichotomy

2008-08-22

In the face of the extreme patriarchy (aka male supremacism, aka complementarianism) movement, many are trying to establish places of dialogue in order to find common or middle ground between that group and Christian Egalitarianism (frequently called by what has become the pejorative “feminism”).

Question: Where is the middle point between extreme and equal? In the picture here, M.F.S. stands for “matriarchy/female supremacism”, EGAL stands for “egalitarian”, and P.M.S. stands for “patriarchy/male supremacism”.

false dichotomy
What’s wrong with this picture?

Egalitarianism IS the middle. The opposite extreme to male supremacism or patriarchy would be female supremacism or matriarchy. What part of equal means not equal? What part of “nobody is superior” means either men are superior or women are superior?

So when people say they want to find common ground between comps and egals, they are looking for a point that doesn’t exist. It would be like trying to find balance between the fulcrum of a teeter-totter and one end. They are chasing a phantom.

Likewise with the common description of egal as “extreme egal”; it’s an oxymoron. By definition, equality is the lack of extremity; it is a balance point. There is either equality or there is not. And this egal position is no attempt to compromise the gospel or find dialogue with evil; instead, it simply acknowledges the equality of male and female, between any one believer and any other believer, in the church, home, or society at large.

We are all equally human. Our differences are between personalities, abilities, talents, and experiences. The obvious biological differences are exactly that: biological; it’s the way to tell male from female. There are really more differences among males or females than between males and females. To tell whether or not something is likely to be a universal and ingrained trait, you would have to prove that it cuts across the boundaries of culture, time, language, etc. Such proof is in the realm of “always” and “never”, not “averages” or “majorities”.

And such a view of equality hardly means we egals don’t appreciate the differences in biology! We are not teaching or advocating androgyny in any form. What we are teaching is that it is wrong to try to homogenize all men to have the same personalities and talents and experiences; likewise for all women. Should all men be considered clones? Are they all identical? Neither are all women clones or all identical. Equal is not identical!

PMSers will take that last statement and say “See? Women can be equal with men but still play a subservient role to them.” That’s obvious doublespeak; it tries to equate equality with permanent hierarchy. If one man is a slave owner over another man, are they equal? No. Are they identical? No. If two men are equal business partners, are they equal? Yes. Are they identical? No.

Equality is found in a relationship where neither bosses the other on a permanent basis by virtue of an intrinsic quality of being. Temporary voluntary hierarchies do not violate ontological equality, but permanent involuntary hierarchies do. When one will is permanently and involuntarily subservient to another, that is a hierarchy and the servant is unequal to the master. Conversely, when one will is temporarily and voluntarily subjected to another, that does not violate the meaning of equality, because it is not based upon one’s intrinsic qualities (inherited, biological) but on a temporary agreement-- an agreement made by equals.

This understanding not only negates the permanent and involuntary subordination of one believer to another on the basis of race, class, or sex, but also the modern attempt to make Jesus a permanent sub-God to the Father, and the Spirit a permanent sub-God to both the Father and the Son. And since all three members of the Trinity share a common will, hierarchy is impossible.

26 Comments

Don

I think Orwell said it best in Animal Farm, "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." Doublespeak exists and needs to be confronted with the truth when found.

tiro3

"P.M.S. stands for “patriarchy/male supremacism”."

hehehe PMS has a second meaning or is that the root of PMS. LOL good one SaberTruth!

Paula Fether

What a coincidence, eh? ;-)

Don

Paula has confessed to using a secret code known only to women over at ECA.

Paula Fether

But, Don, we all know you guys can’t crack it. Ha!

Lin

Incredibly insightful post, Paula. I had never thought of egal BEING the middle ground but it is.

"Temporary voluntary hierarchies do not violate ontological equality, but permanent involuntary hierarchies do. When one will is permanently and involuntarily subservient to another, that is a hierarchy and the servant is unequal to the master. Conversely, when one will is temporarily and voluntarily subjected to another, that does not violate the meaning of equality, because it is not based upon one’s intrinsic qualities (inherited, biological) but on a temporary agreement– an agreement made by equals."

This is exactly right. And the propaganda must be refuted. Egals are not disdainful of all authorities. We do not hate men. We do not want to elevate women over men. And we do not want to put people in ’personality trait’ boxes, either.

We just believe in mutual submission of all believers to each other. Including husbands and wives.

Love the cartoon visual!

Paula Fether

Tanx Lin! I actually got the inspiration from the ECA message board, specifically a comment made by a Ruud person. :-)

DB

I think you hit upon a basic principle that isn’t often articulated.

While *temporary* heirarchies are sound in principle and practice, *permanently* creating a heirarchy in which one party is inherently dominant and another submissive is evil.

If you think about it even parent-child relationship in which the child is to submit to the authority of his or her parent is temporary, the child grows up and becomes autonomous (in spite of some extreme patrists that claim authority over adult children.)

Think slavery verses indentured servant or millitary service or even employment.

Paula Fether

Yep. This has been Rebecca Groothuis’ primary argument for quite a while now. And the new push for the old Arian heresy of permanent inequality in the Trinity is solely motivated by the need to prove that this illogical situation is biblical. If they can prove equality of being with permanent hierarchy in the Trinity, and also make the Trinity the model for marriage (where does the Holy Spirit fit in that model??), then they can claim biblical authority for the permanent subjugation of women to men without being accused of calling women inferior! Such desperation to keep one’s place (a place that truly "bows to culture" in all but modern times, and in all religions for all time)is the mark of Pharisees.

Truthseeker

Paula, your point that the Holy Spirit is left out of the ’model’ of Christ and the Father’s relationship being a prototype for ours with Christ and ours within marriage is excellent. That is never addressed. This whole issue goes even beyond marriage roles because so many women are single. Who becomes their head or heads? It begins to fall apart very quickly when the simple logic of it all is extrapolated out to the various implications.

Don, I was appalled at the beating you took on that blog. That was astounding. Your responses were beyond admirable. What an example you have been to me in your truly gentle and respectfully kind responses in the face of such fire and venom. It reminds me of the fable of the sun and the wind and the traveler. The sun and wind looked down upon a man walking, wearing a coat, and challenged one another to see who could get him to take off his coat. The wind began by blowing harder and harder, trying to blow his coat off. The man only clutched his coat more tightly to himself. Then the sun’s turn came. The sun shown brightly, and even more warmly, until the travelor finally became so warm that he took of his jacket.

Paula Fether

They’d say a single woman’s head is her father, or nearest male relative, or most immediate cleric-- just like Islam and Mormonism. She just HAS to be bossed by a male! Yet if you try telling them that this makes the woman a perpetual child or slave they get nasty (what else is new?) and try to equate this with *temporary and voluntary* arrangements like boss/employee or quarterback/receiver.

They whine that such "rhetoric" is "not helpful", that it is "a conversation stopper". Yet somehow calling us vile names and equating us with abortionists and perverts is perfectly fine for them to do. They actually believe that someone MUST be in charge, that no possible human activity can be carried out without a chain of command. I ask them how two best friends can get along without either being the other’s boss, and they never answer.

Kathy

’Paula, your point that the Holy Spirit is left out of the ‘model’ of Christ and the Father’s relationship being a prototype for ours with Christ and ours within marriage is excellent. That is never addressed.’

The reason is because the Holy Spirit is grammaticaly gendered a she and the husband who has authority can’t model female and so the HS is exculded completely.

Kathy

’It begins to fall apart very quickly when the simple logic of it all is extrapolated out to the various implications.’

Which I find SO amazing!

Paula Fether

Welcome, Kathy!

Yes, and when you do point out the logical conclusions of their teachings, they whine, "Well, when you put it that way, of course it looks bad!"

To which I would reply, "Well, DUH, it IS bad!"

Don

In Hebrew Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is feminine grammatical gender with a pronoun of she; in Greek the Hagios Pneuma (Holy Spirit) is neuter grammatical gender ith a pronoun of it; but an it in English usually is non-personal, so that might be considered disrespectful so it is never translated that way.

People that speak only English get conned by Grudem making a big deal out of masculine gender supposedly MEANING something that it does not.

Kathy

’Yes, and when you do point out the logical conclusions of their teachings, they whine, “Well, when you put it that way, of course it looks bad!”’

I’ve had this excuse given to me when I presented my argument on 1 Tim 2 from point a to b. It was so tight that I was told in gist, ’Well when you put it that why ofcourse it cannot be refuted.’

LOL!

Kathy

Sorry for my bad typing...

Paula Fether

No problem, Kathy. It’s the thought that counts. :-) They do get their feelings all hurt when they’re proved wrong, and of course that makes us meanies. How dare we treat our superiors that way!

Don, I have to wonder how Grudem’s grammatical gaffes go over in other languages.

Lydia

I think some of the comps are getting so desperate to appeal to their hierarchy fetish, that they are even turning to old heresies! Some of the stuff they come up with is bizarre, like the Trinity being the model for marriage. If you think on it a bit, it sounds somewhat blasphemous.

But God has male and female personality traits, and that is where I think the male and female humans comes from, to each mirror God’s half of God’s personality. Not the Trinity, as that is something totoally differant.

Lydia

Whoops! A bit of a grammer error there! I meant "to each mirror half of God’s personality"

Paula Fether

Hi Lydia!

Yes, they’re desperate. Being caught with their theological pants down has to be pretty embarrassing.

DB

Lydia,

Especially when one regards the Members of the Trinity as somehow literally *male*.

Heresy, indeed. And, Paula, you’re cracking me up wrt the fetish and being caught with their pants down.

Bad-bad-making me think the wrong thing.

The Trinity is something our minds cannot comprehend but, somewhere wrapped up in that incomprehensive theology is the concept that the Three are also One.

So, if the heresy is thinking of the Trinity being married to one another, is it

Homosexuality, Incest, Or masturbation?!?

And why are our worthy opposition so focused on their collective genitalia?

Paula Fether

"Bad-bad-making me think the wrong thing."

See what power I wield over others, even across the internet??

(Just as an aside, and not at all directed at DB or anyone here: I remember my sister’s abusive ex using that line on her, that somehow she made him do and think things. That’s why it was all her fault, and male supremacists do this on a near-genocidal scale.)

As for the, um, "married" members of the Trinity, the focus is as I said bordering on phallus worship. Now, see what THEY’ve made us go and think about??

Kathy

’Yes, they’re desperate. Being caught with their theological pants down has to be pretty embarrassing.’

Paula, you crack me up.

Paula Fether

Just tryin’ to help us visualize complex theology. :-p

Words of a Fether » Deaf And Blind: An Analysis of Flesh-based Theology

[...] 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 [...]