Monday, June 8, 2009

Chapter 3 - Did God really say ...?

I find myself faced with many opportunities in this life for a momentary pause over what my thoughts are regarding being a woman and marriage. It happens every time I get asked for my “title” and presented with the options “Miss”, “Ms” or “Mrs”. I’m not suggesting that I think the titles of Miss and Mrs are instituted by God—though Ms is definitely a product of the women’s liberation movement, and it was the magazine title in this chapter that brought this example to mind—but rather that it is a moment in which it is worth reflecting on what sort of thoughts are motivating this, and many other, seemingly small decisions. As Carolyn points out in this chapter, spiritual battles are won or lost in the day-to-day thoughts we harbour, and our thoughts and ideas about marriage matter.

I loved the way this chapter pointed us to the spiritual problems at the heart of feminism and showed how and why the divine foundation of marriage and family is under great attack. I also found it helpful to realise that this is the contemporary manifestation of this timeless spiritual battle, and so in one sense is not a new problem, but is now one area where the battle rages (remembering also what she wrote about the “ism” of feminism in chapter 1, pg 27). This sets feminism rightly in historical and spiritual perspective, yet at the same time shows the great necessity of fighting this battle.

I don’t know that I had ever thought, before reading this book, about the placement of Ephesians Chapter 5 in a book of the bible that begins with God’s reunification project for the universe, in uniting all things together under Christ, and ends with arming yourself for spiritual warfare. So I really appreciated the quotes from Andreas Kostenburger showing why and how we need to fight for God's design for marriage and family. I also highly recommend listening to this talk by Jonny Gibson from Katoomba Easter Convention (you can download it for $1.98) on marriage in the context of Ephesians as a whole, and how it is of cosmic significance to God, as part of how he uniting all things together under Christ, and of gospel significance, as a model of Christ’s relationship with the church. He states that the key to a marriage as beautiful as the wedding is to understand God’s big (theological) picture for marriage, and then obey in the details. In it he tells us, as Carolyn does in this chapter, that wives submit to their husbands in respect for God’s divine order, and in service and worship of our Lord. (And he adds a nice little aside about how the commands given for wives and husbands actually suit the craving needs men and women have in relationship: a man’s need for respect, and a woman’s need for love.)

I also very much liked the quote from Wayne Grudem on pg 62, which reaffirms that men and women are equally made in the image of God, and that nowhere in the bible does it say that men are more so than women. However, at this point I think we need to be careful not to swing the pendulum too far in the other direction. Captivating, the recent Christian best-selling book phenomenon for women by the Eldredges, makes the claim that women are the zenith and crowning point of creation and that the devil has a special hatred of women because they are thus uniquely glorious. I cannot find any biblical support for those claims and humbly submit that they are fundamental theological errors, and we need to be wary of the implications of them. Women are no less in the image of God than men, but neither are they more so, and neither are they categorically under greater attack from the devil than men, though feminism has perhaps given the devil a great deal of material to work with, as discussed in this chapter and earlier in the book.

I felt that there was much that could be discussed about submission from this chapter (it was a short chapter with a lot in it!), and that I could make this the longest blog post ever with quotes (being aware that I am not so tried and tested on this point). Instead I will point you elsewhere if you’d like to read more, to this post from Nicole, from the Feminine Appeal posts, with the list of reading material she suggests, and also to This Momentary Marriage, by John Piper, especially chapters 3 and 8 (you can download a pdf). In chapter 8 he discusses the case for submission from 1 Peter 3:1-6, which adds to the picture and shows that this is not an isolated idea in the bible. Love and Respect, by the Eggerichs, is interesting reading on the needs of men and women as mentioned above. Lastly, if you come back next year in April we will be reading through Married for God, by Christopher Ash, which is so well worth reading.


Anonymous said...

i am wondering what the next generation will do with feminism - many of the girls i teach in high school are not really into striving for the ultimate job or job satisfaction that we were told to do in the 1970s ie girls can and should do anything they want. Some of the teenage girls i know reject the many stressed hours they see their mothers performing . THe want a job that interests them but i don't see as much pressure and angst within them or put on them. Of course they are already legacies of equal pay and the ability to think of doing any job What do you think

Ali said...

Thanks anonymous!

Yes, I totally agree. I have a friend who is a divorced mother doing everything on her own (including a Ph.D on the side) and her daughter doesn't interested in even finishing school - perhaps in reaction to the life she sees her mother trying to live.

As you say, teenagers are now in a position to take for granted where society has come to for women, and perhaps in the next generation we will see more of an equilibrium return. It will certainly be interesting to see whether they do indeed make the choice to "have it all". Even now I have friends my age whose mothers are more "feminist" than they are, and express disappointment that their daughters have chosen to have so many children and stay home to care for them (making their circumstances the same as their mothers, but their mothers hoped they would do things differently, probably because they never had that choice).

The changes have been quite rapid in the last 50 years, so who knows what the future could hold ...