Thursday, June 11, 2009

Chapter 4 - Role Call

Maybe it’s my biological background, but I am fascinated by the ways in which the brains and biology of men and women differ, and find it an intriguing marvel of God’s creation. Did you know that women have a finer discrimination of colour, especially at the red end of the spectrum, than men, which is one possibility for why they are better able to read the emotional content of faces? And the list of such intricate and specific differences goes on. (You can read more in Chapter 16 of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.) It's these very differences that are precisely what make women a suitable and complementary helper for men.

I appreciated the passage quoted from Wayne Grudem in the last chapter (pg 61) that showed us how the different roles in marriage actually reflect the headship and submission within the trinity. Similarly, I appreciated that here we are pointed to the divine context for women being a helper. Wendy Alsup at her blog Practical Theology for Women very helpfully teases this out in this post, in which she shows us the way God is our help and does himself the very thing he requires of women in marriage:

God is our Help. The Holy Spirit is our Helper. When we understand God’s role on this issue, it puts this in perspective. God, Almighty Sovereign Lord of the Universe, is our helper and we, as women, are created in His image. If we hold on to the attitude that being created as a helper is condescending and substandard, we mock the Name of God and His character, for the role of Helper is one God willingly embraces ... God’s example reveals a high and worthy calling for wives as “helpers suitable to their husbands”. We are called to show compassion, to support, defend and protect those in our care, to deliver from distress and to comfort. We are called to be conduits of God’s grace in our homes. We are called to be like Christ.

It thought it was very helpful (not to mention affirming) to be shown the way the phrase “fit for him” actually entails the equality of women with men, because women are the corresponding and adequate helper, and to be reminded that roles are never equated with worth, which is the mistake that feminists constantly make. Indeed, you could make the case that there is a greater worth, in any working relationship, in each party having differing roles and capabilities.

I also thought the quote from Piper and Grudem on page 84 was important in showing how a wife’s submission is not an absolute surrender of her will but rather a “disposition to yield”, and that because it is done, as we saw in the last chapter, as an act of worship to Christ, and under his authority, then a woman should never follow her husband into sin. This section was very helpful in pointing out that one of ways a wife can be a suitable and extremely valuable helper to a husband is to bring insightful correction and protect him from sin.

Quitting the role

Once again I found many topics covered in this chapter, which each could make many books of their own. As the newspaper articles I linked to on Friday and Tuesday show, society is slowly waking up to the real effects and costs of feminism on women and families, and here divorce is no exception, as stated in the end of the quote on page 87. My friend Karen, herself a child of divorce, here writes an extensive review of secular books looking at the effect of divorce on children and has distilled her thoughts in the Briefing article Generation Ex, well worth reading. I’d also recommend reading chapter 1 of The Essence of Feminism on the societal fall-out of divorce. Here is a sample:

As the shackles of marriage have loosened, many women have unfortunately not found freedom from anything except security and economic comfort. Marriage, unpopular and dated as its image is, is actually very good for women. Its recent decline has had, consequently, rather terrible results for women and their children ... Married women live longer and are less likely to have cancer than single women. Marriage breakdown is one of the biggest causes of suicide and depression ...
No-fault divorce is not a triumph for anyone in society. However, those are just the utilitarian arguments and consequences. We read in the last chapter about the cosmic significance of marriage and its gospel witness, and these provide the theological and teleological reasons why it should never be dissolved lightly (irrespective of the consequences — though those consequences serve to show that God’s guidelines for living really are in our best interests!). And so here I thought it very fitting that we be reminded that God has an infinite supply of grace to enable what he commands, and, as we see in the book of Ephesians, Christ is very much in the business of reconciling 'irreconcilable differences'.

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