Wednesday, February 27, 2013

June/July of a Year of Biblical Womanhood (Guest Post)

The following is part six of a critical review of Rachel Held Evans's book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”, Thomas Nelson, 2012 (see this link for a little more background and an index to all sections of the review). Ms. Evans's book starts with October and ends with September, thus this review follows Ms. Evans's order.


We feel that we’ve gotten to the crux of the matter this month with a topic of “Submission.” Early on Evans suggests that passages on this topic in both Peter’s and Paul’s writings (1 Peter 3:1-2, and Colossians 3:18 and Ephesians 5:22-23) are in fact not normative and that conservative evangelicals are wrong to assume so. Again, this is another slam on the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. Narratives do not necessarily describe normative behavior, but certainly exhortations and commands do. The way out of this conundrum for Ms. Evans is to suggest -- like liberal commentators before her -- that these passages on wifely submission are either preceded by or followed by instructions on slaves submitting to their masters, and, as she says, “the implications are astounding.”

Again she draws a wrong conclusion: that anyone who believes in wifely submission therefore must also agree with slavery, and slavery of a first-century type. These verses, she tells us, are just the Christian spin on Greco-Roman household codes which gave men unilateral authority over wives, slaves and children. Perhaps without realizing it here she denies the Holy Spirit-inspired character of the Word of God. She then goes on to quote verses that talk about living as free people, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves (1 Peter 2:16) and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21) and calls these words “subversive” ones, lying “beneath the seemingly acquiescent text” as if the Bible carries with it a hidden code. This is just nonsense. According to Timothy G. Gombis of Cedarville University (link):
After his harsh critique of pagan culture throughout the present section of the letter, it is hardly credible to claim that Paul is attempting to find common ground between Christian communities and the surrounding culture. Far from minimizing the differences between what he calls the Old Humanity (Ephesians 4:22) and the New Humanity (Ephesians 2:15; 4:24), Paul is stressing the absolute incompatibility of the two spheres.
His entire article, published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society makes worthwhile reading.

Next, if Ms. Evans’ quotations are correct, I agree with her that Raymond Ortlund and John Piper in Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, seem to do a bit of stretching Scripture to arrive at their conclusions. Piper talks about the impropriety of female city planners or female officials at sporting events, a venture into left field in my opinion [Fn1]. The Bible is clear enough with what it says, without speculating where it is silent.

Another of Evans’ targets is Debi Pearl and her book, Created to be His Helpmeet. Even if Debi Pearl represents an extreme (as she is presented), that doesn’t mean that we have to agree with Rachel Evans. There’s good stuff outside of the two.


“What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) God’s justice is an attribute that He expects His followers to personally appropriate. Clearly justice is required by our Lord: justice in witness bearing, in commerce, and in personal relationships. This chapter of Evans’ book is devoted to this concept. With that there is no problem. But note the following: after citing several Old Testament passages, she begins to talk about Jesus who is “committed…to these central Jewish teachings…” as if Jesus Himself is not God, the Word of God incarnate! She paints Him as a Jewish rabbi of the first century who continues the teachings of the Old Testament prophets, rather -- I suppose -- the way the Islamic religion pictures Him.[FN2]

She indicts a shallow evangelicalism, one which will even listen to unbelievers, even cultists, to tell them what to do religiously: she refers to Glenn Beck (Mormon) telling Christians to leave churches that advocate social justice. This is bizarre. Never having read or listened to Glenn Beck I can only take her word for it and shake my head in amazement. I think Christians may be spending more time with talk radio than the Bible. This is a shame -- even if the "social justice" churches are bad, the reason for leaving them has to be Scripture, not Political Activists.

But a little religious history may be in order. Early in the 20th century the liberal churches became centers that did barely anything but advocate social agendas. The Gospel was nearly gone from their churches. The words were the same but the meanings were different. They saw no need for redemption, for propitiation, for substitution for they were not in touch with the concept and reality of sin against a holy God. For further reading, The Presbyterian Controversy by Bradley J. Longfield is recommended (link to Amazon).

Churches and Christians that are true to the Bible need not fear to advocate social justice, properly defined [FN3]. In fact, most conservative churches I know of do just that. They are on the frontlines speaking for the unborn, the most helpless segment of our society, seeking to save those lives. Francis Schaeffer laid the groundwork for a resurgence of Biblical action with A Christian Manifesto (Amazon link). Many have heeded his call. He asserted that Christianity is not conservative; it is revolutionary. Speaking of two camps, the New Left and the Establishment elite, he suggested that at times we will be "co-belligerents" with one or the other, but not true allies with either of them. Schaeffer spoke of "a growing Establishment totalitarianism" and warned that "evangelicals will slide without thought into accepting the Establishment elite." If this generation does not know Schaeffer, it needs to get in touch with his writings.

The Biblical woman for the month of July is “Junia, the Apostle” whom Rachel calls “perhaps the most silenced woman in the Bible.” Following Scott McKnight of The Blue Parakeet fame, she trashes the idea that “of note among the apostles” means “well known among the apostles.” She repeats McKnight’s argument that Junia (female) was changed to Junias (male) because the copyist deemed it unacceptable for a woman to be an apostle! But James R. White notes:
How does McKnight know the intentions and beliefs of ancient scribes? While it is common enough for modern textual scholars to engage in time-traveling mind-reading today, neither McKnight, nor anyone else, can tell us with any certainty what any particular unknown and unnamed scribe believed in the ancient world. In fact, both sources cited in McKnight’s notes indicate that the situation is significantly more complex and nuanced than his discussion indicates. The reality is that nobody changed any spelling at all. The difference between Junia and Junias is a matter of accenting, and the earliest manuscripts do not have accent marks. Hence, McKnight’s assertion that this text was changed “because women aren’t supposed to be ‘apostles’” evaporates on examination, as does much of his larger argument.
I don’t think there was any conspiracy to keep the apostles all male. After all, the word “apostle” can mean messenger, without any connotation of ordination. There are others in the New Testament called “apostles” yet were not numbered with the 12 (or thirteen), such as Silas, Apollos and Barnabas. Yet the solution may be just as White explains above—a matter of accent marks in the earliest manuscripts.


FN1: Editorial note -- although the pun is excellent, T-Fan would generally concur with folks like Piper.

FN2: Editorial note -- please bear in mind that "justice" is one thing and "social justice" is another thing.

FN3: Editorial note -- i.e. not Marxism, or other hijacked meanings of the term, which are rampant today.

(This is a guest post.)


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