Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Choice and freedom

This is a response to Dave Warnock's post "Choice and Freedom of Male Headship". This is the main gist of it:

"Male Headship and Freedom of Choice for Women: they are alternatives, you cannot have both at the same time."

Freedom of Choice. That's a human right isn't it? We should all be free to choose. Most of the time, we (in the West, at least) are free to make lots of choices.

We are free to choose what to eat for breakfast.
We are free to choose what clothes we wear.
We are free to choose who we pursue relationships with.

But I believe that when Jesus calls me to surrender my all to Him, I do not have the liberty of withholding my rights.

I am free to choose revenge,
but Jesus calls for forgiveness.
I am free to choose greed,
but Jesus calls for generosity.
I am free to choose malice,
but Jesus calls for gentleness.

To follow Jesus, I must daily lay down my right to Freedom of Choice and say "not my will, but yours". I propose that this statement is therefore true:

Following Jesus and Freedom of Choice: they are alternatives, you cannot have both at the same time.

So the question that remains is "does Jesus call for elders to be male, and for wives to submit to their husbands?"

[Update 24/06/11: Please read my comment below (the second comment) for clarification of what I'm trying to say here]

11 comments:

DaveW said...

Submitting to Jesus and submitting to a man are completely different.

Jesus has never abused anyone, Jesus has never ignored anyone, hit anyone, mocked anyone, ceased to love anyone, humiliated anyone, ... the list is endless.

It is heretical to compare obeying a husband to obeying Jesus. Husbands sin, Jesus does not. Jesus is fully God as well as fully human, husbands are simply human.

It is also deeply offensive. You are playing lightly with people's lives.

You would not do this if like me, you have had a phone call after midnight from a woman who has just taken an overdose because of abuse by men.

You would not do this if you had had to wake young children in the middle of the night and take them to a foster carer they have never met because their Dad has driven their Mum to attempt suicide.

Go to a shelter for battered women and listen to their stories.

This is completely unacceptable. It is not enough to say "I didn't mean that" or play with definitions like

- we mean submit spiritually (not what New Frontiers value actually says)

- we don't mean submit if your husband is not doing God's will (not what your values say).

- we don't mean submit to abuse (but John Piper expects women to submit to abuse for a season)

At the moment the hole you have dug has collapsed on top of you. You need help as you cannot get out of this alone.

Andy said...

Dave,

Submitting to Jesus and submitting to a man are completely different.

I totally agree. I did not compare obeying a husband to obeying Jesus.

What I'm saying is that if Jesus calls wives to submit to their husbands, then they should. That is all.

DaveW said...

Andy,

"What I'm saying is that if Jesus calls wives to submit to their husbands, then they should. That is all."

And what do you say to a wife who does what you demand and submits to her husband who beats her, or emotionally abuses her, or who exploits her financially?

I have spoken to wives who have experienced all these from husbands who told them "the Bible says you must submit to me".

What do you say to these women?

What do you say to the women who have gone to the Church elders and said my husband is abusing me and they have ignored her or told her that it is because she is not submissive enough? Sadly there are plenty of examples of this as well.

Oh and go back to your Bible. Jesus does not say wives submit anywhere!!!

Hannah Mudge said...

Andy, you place so much emphasis on wives submitting and it is true that the Bible talks about this, but it also says ‘submit to one another out of reverence for Christ’. When people who are very strong on male headship and roles within marriage talk about their beliefs, they usually ignore this verse and I wonder why this is. I know we probably don’t agree on this but I feel a belief in mutual submission and respect is the best working out of God’s plan for men and women at the time of creation, when we were created without hierarchy. As someone who actively strives to have an egalitarian marriage I find it hard to understand how there are so many issues that a woman may ‘have’ to submit to her husband over. I believe that when we submit to and respect each other, wanting the best for each other and loving sacrificially, we will achieve the best outcome.

It’s a really sticky issue, but as Dave says, belief in male headship is used to justify so much abuse (sexual, physical and emotional) and if not outright abuse, then also casual sexism, putting down of women, refusing to listen to what they have to say or acknowledging that they might have any authority in terms of theology, promoting 19th/20th century Western gender stereotypes as ‘Biblical’ and at the very least, stopping many women from fulfilling God’s plan for them by permitting them to serve in the way they were meant to. It’s also a key component of the extra-Biblical legalism enforced by members of the patriarchy movement (although I know they are not one and the same with complementarians, the route to patriarchy is via hardline complementarianism). This is not to say that complementarian men are abusive (this would be ridiculous) but it can’t be brushed off. I have had experience of men claiming a church is ‘going downhill’ because ‘the women are having a say in how things are run’ and of a man being told to effectively ‘rein in’ his wife because she prayed directionally from the front on a Sunday. To me there is nothing ‘joyful’ about this.

As a woman who at one time really struggled with church due to feeling that I would never be able to use my gifts or be myself. I do not feel this is a question of submitting to God’s will for us as women. As Dave has mentioned many times, he has been contacted by so many women who are really struggling with male headship and not because they’re in the wrong, but because they are being put down and limited. I do not believe that God wants to limit what we can do for Him. Many men who espouse male headship and female submission will say that the majority of women are happy with how it works out for them. I do not believe this is the case and could tell you stories of many women I know who would say the same, not because they are rebelling against God but because they just want to be free to be the person they were created to be. Churches which promote complementarianism often effectively exclude single or childless women from serving because they have no husband or do not ‘fit in’ with the majority. They frequently promote a narrow view of femininity which is not Biblical. And when we speak out against it we are often told that it’s not that big a deal, sadly. It’s not a ‘salvation issue’ and that there are more important issues facing the church, which is incredibly dismissive and sadly, symptomatic of people who have never been told they can’t live out God’s calling on their lives because of their gender.

Dave Faulkner said...

Andy,

Like my friend Dave W, I'm a Methodist minister. I get on very well with my local New Frontiers colleagues, even to the point of joint outreach projects. However, this is an area where I have real struggles with NF teaching.

Firstly, as Hannah says, you have to see 'wives, submit' in the context of Ephesians 5:21, 'Submit to one another'. That's where the submission language begins. That's the headline under which all that follows lives.

Secondly, discussions of wives submitting that omit reference to 'Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church' are seriously defective. How did Christ love the Church? By dying for her. I have to be willing to sacrifice myself for my wife.

Hence, mutual submission. Both parties give up themselves for their spouse. It's not about power. Any discussion of this that majors on power questions has it all wrong and is deeply suspect. No wonder such approaches end in the kind of abuse that Dave describes earlier.

Andy said...

Hi Hannah and Dave F,

Thanks for your comments. I guess that this discussion revolves more around the "wives submit" part because that's the part we (me and DaveW) disagree on.

You're right, we need to place that in the context of mutual submission and the command that husbands should love their wives.

Any talks I've heard about the issue have always been set in that context. As a husband myself, I take my duty to love my wife incredibly seriously. I totally agree with Dave F, that it's not about power, but (IMO) servant leadership.

I can point to my own (limited) experiece. I've been in two Newfrontiers churches, and seen women preaching, leading worship, leading home groups, leading children's and youth groups.

I haven't spoken extensively to women in the church about how they feel, but I know that my wife is happy.

Andy said...

DaveW,

What do you say to these women?

Thankfully I've never been in that situation, but I could confidently say that their husbands were not doing what the Bible tells them to.

Oh and go back to your Bible. Jesus does not say wives submit anywhere!!!

I believe Jesus calls us to follow the teaching in the whole of Scripture.

Hannah Mudge said...

Andy I'm intrigued that you've seen women preaching - was this to both men and women? I think that the position on gender really does vary between NF churches - some would not have a single woman leading a home group for example, many would be dead against women preaching if there were men in the room, but I know that some women have preached on certain occasions.

Andy said...

Hannah,

Yes I've heard that there is a lot of variation. In my previous church the preaching was almost exclusively done by the elders, who were men of course, but occasionally someone else would preach. On some occasions, the preacher was the wife of one of the elders - so that factor has come into it - but the talk was for the whole church.

I've been at my current church for almost a year, and not heard a woman preach. However, I know that women (not elders' wives) have done talks here in the past.

We also asked a married couple to present a joint address at our wedding, which was fantastic.

DaveW said...

Andy,

I apologise that I have missed the recent comments. For some reason notification of new comments seems to have failed.

Thankfully I've never been in that situation, but I could confidently say that their husbands were not doing what the Bible tells them to.

I think it is safe to assume we agree that the Bible does not tell anyone to abuse other people. But when a husband abuses his wife:

- what does a New Frontiers Church do about it?

- what can the wife in a New Frontiers Church do about it?

- what support will the wife get from a New Frontiers Church.

Sadly I know women who say their experience in New Frontiers is nothing, nothing and none.

Now I fully recognise that all Churches have failed women who have been abused. In no way would I claim Methodism is anything like perfect.

However, there is a big but. When a Church teaches female submission it inevitably gives power to the man. Unlike Jesus these men will not be perfect, they will sin, they will fail to do all that God requires. By teaching women to submit to men who are sinners the Church makes them very vulnerable.

The teaching from John Piper (who Adrian Warnock frequently quotes as an influence on New Frontiers) is that a woman should endure abuse for a season. Do you accept that?

Now in your reply to Hannah and Dave F you write:

"You're right, we need to place that in the context of mutual submission and the command that husbands should love their wives."

Please explain to me where mutual submission is included in the values held by New Frontiers.

"I believe Jesus calls us to follow the teaching in the whole of Scripture."

Yes. But we cannot simplistically say that Jesus calls us to follow very verse. Or do you think Psalm 137:8-9 should be treated as simplistic advice for a time of war today?

It seems to me that you do not recognise the extent to which we all (inevitably) interpret scripture rather than take it literally.

Andy said...

Dave,

It seems to me that you do not recognise the extent to which we all (inevitably) interpret scripture rather than take it literally.

I think PamBG hit the nail on the head with her comment about hermenuetics. Everything stems from how we interpret the Bible.
One of my next posts will be about that issue.

For now, I'm not finding the debate helpful, so I won't be commenting much. It's too easy to get drawn into an argument that just wastes time. I think your questions are totally valid, but I know I won't ever be able to answer them in a way that you are satisfied with.