Sunday, April 5, 2009

And apparently all religions follow the same god

Here is the Taliban's version of Islam in action. Not nice.

Then there is life for a Shiite woman in Afghanistan. Not to worry, the Marines are coming to save you. No, wait, they have already put into power the man who signed this new law into existence.

But, hey, some Christians are toying with interesting ideas around women, arguing (a) for the 'eternal subordination of the Son', then (b) that the eternal subordination of the Son means the eternal subordination of women to men (as Son to the Father so wife to the husband). See Re-vis.e Reform's latest alert here.

So, um, perhaps all religions do follow the same god and he has it in for women.

Nice.

Postscript: Oh, someone might want to comment: 'Peter, how can you even think of a possible equation between the Taliban and good Christian brothers and sisters who happen to think differently to you about women in church and in marriage'.

Well, no, I am not making an equation. I am saying that there are a range of approaches to the subordination of women under the umbrella of religion. The Taliban seem to be universally recognised as being at one extreme of the range. At the other end of the range are Christians promoting 'subordinate but equal' or 'equal but subordinate' understandings of women in a male-led faith community. No doubt there will be no beatings and no school burnings at that end. Nevertheless many inside and outside the church are not persuaded by the line 'equal but subordinate' since it denies that a woman with equal gifts, abilities and sense of calling to leadership can be a leader (as in 'leader-in-charge'). Seemingly, 'equal but subordinate' means 'equal in some things, not equal in others, but either way subordinate'. So the effect of denial of women taking up any of the roles which a man may take up in an 'equal but subordinate' community is linked, albeit distantly, with the burning of schools as a means of denying the education of girls so they may not take up roles men take up.

As Christians we have the opportunity to develop communities in which (a) women are equal to men in respect of opportunity to engage fully in the mission of God (b) differentiation in roles of women as wife/mother and men as husband/father is not extended to the ministry of the church (c) subordination and submission are activities all Christians engage in within a mode of being church which is marked by mutuality and not hierarchy (e.g. 1 Corinthians 16:16).

Let's show the world that the God of Jesus Christ who died to make us one people through the Holy Spirit is unlike the god of people who beat women and destroy schools for girls. This God is an eternal unity not an eternal hierarchy - a point well-argued here.

6 comments:

Rachel said...

Thanks for the mention, Peter. The possible spin-offs of ESS have worried me for some time now and have been a feature of my blog's explorations. Wayne Grudem was in debate with his opponents a few months ago and Paula Fether at Fether.net did a very interesting analysis of this debate.

I am trying so hard to understand the complementarian mind-set and I am making some progress. At one time, before I had actually looked into their thinking, I had thought that they were arguing for female subordination full stop. I do now understand that they hold to our ontological equality, it's just that I do not now know what to do with the whole role differentiation-thing. At the end of the day, we have women serving in the armed forces, working in construction, running nations. We have men taking care of children, ministering to the sick etc. I just feel that God considers us all on an individual basis and the scriptures show for the most part that this is the case. There are some problem passages but after looking into these carefully in their original languages and contexts, arguments for strict role-differentiation just do not stack up. Thanks for bringing people's attention to the issues. I have found your blog very inspiring and have quoted the descriptions you put in your side panel in my latest explorations with ugley vicar John Richardson and on a fulcrum forum thread.

Anonymous said...

I think you will find something like 'the eternal subordination of the Son (and the Spirit)' is integral to the Eastern Orthodox understanding of the Trinity (which of course treats the Father as the 'fons divinitatis' and denies the dual procession of the Spirit) and relies on John 5.19-24, 1 Cor 15.28, and other passages. It's the same idea expressed by Rublev's famous icon of the Trinity: the Son goes at the bidding of the Father, as does the Spirit (John 14.26).
Does this doctrine (or theologoumenon?) have much to say on the ministry of women? I'm not sure, since how God chooses to dispose his human creatures is a counsel of his will. If necessity requires it, God may speak and act through a Balam or even Balam's ass.
But can we not ask about God's *positive will, rather than making a virtue out of a necessity born of a time of spiritual decline and confusion (as I consider the present Anglican world)? I cannot avoid the impression (and this is supported by many comments on blogs like titusonenine) that churches led by women will end up becoming (older) women's groups - even more so than many Anglican churches already are. Further, I don't think many male clergy readily want to work with female clergy, except in the partnership of marriage (for which Prisca and Aquila give a good model). Sharing at an intimate level with another in ministry can have unintended consequences for marriages, as even some Anglican bishops have discovered.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Rachel (I have been following your latest debate with JR, but have found it a bit complicated to dive in with my own comments!!).

Yes, there is genuine ontological equality envisaged in the complementarian view; but I think/would argue that there is no perception of the experience of women in history and now through such a view being enforced ... an experience of oppression in some instances (and not in others, e.g. when women say 'we need a man as our minister' etc).

Essentially the complementarian view is theologically faulty (misunderstanding the Trinity) and evangelically faulty (for it imposes a law where the church originally experienced freedom).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous

Yes, and how is women's liberation these days in countries in which the Eastern orthodox church predominates?

A very important point is made in the article by Paula Fether I link to at the end of my post: Jesus the Son of God was subordinate during his mission but generally not through eternity.

At the end of your comment you convey an impression that we ought not to have women leaders of churches because things might go wrong in the make up of the congregation or in staff relationships. This is, however, no substantive argument against women leaders since (a) just one instance of a well-led, men remaining congregation denies it (examples here locally in the Nelson Diocese) (b) male-female difficulties in staff relationships potentially abound for any role one might have (are you saying there should be no more female parish secretaries in parishes with a sole charge male vicar?), let alone a clergy role. (A simple solution could be to ensure an odd number on the staff)!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Peter - I see you have gone into the issue in a later posting and I will try to digest that before long. For the moment, a few brief comments.
1. I mentioned the Orthodox to recall that the issue is a good deal more complex than it may appear to Western Protestants. The status of women in Eastern Europe isn't the issue - and in case I think that has rather more to do with 70 years of communism - multiple abortion as in Russia is hardly an Orthodox 'value' - but it is now commended by the new woman head of EDS in Massachusetts. Do we need further evidence of spiritual depravity?
2. FWIW, the Orthodox will always reply that a woman who believes herself called to ministry should become a nun. Not many takers among Anglicans? Why not?
3. FWIW2, the Orthodox have no problem with women - or lay men - being theologians and teachers. For them, the issue revolves around the Divine Liturgy and the role of the priest. Pretty similar to Roman Catholics, in fact. Is this a relevant concern for Anglicans and their understanding of the ministry? If not, shouldn't we rather have 'lay celebration'?

As for my claim that men in general don't want to be in women-led organizations and will vote with their feet, like it or not, I think this is true and a women-led church will become even more feminized than it already is, emphasizing 'female' values lke nurturing, tenderness etc ('not that there's anything wrong with that', as the cliche goes). How many men would join a soccer or rugby team coached by a woman? A few maybe, not many.
I think my real substantive point is to wonder whether a woman leader could easily relate to men (and they to her) in the models that I see in Scripture - which is a *father* (or *older brother*) in the household of faith. This is the model I see in the Pastoral Epistles.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous
I appreciate learning some new things about Eastern Orthodoxy from you!
In the end the Anglican church has not followed the path of RC/EO re 'Mass' or 'Divine Liturgy' ... and, in any case, within some quarters of the RC there is some rising pressure to ordain women!

Incidentally, encouraging women to be teachers of the EO church is to encourage a form of ordering of its life: why not ordain these women?

When you say, "As for my claim that men in general don't want to be in women-led organizations and will vote with their feet, like it or not, I think this is true and a women-led church will become even more feminized than it already is, emphasizing 'female' values lke nurturing, tenderness etc ('not that there's anything wrong with that', as the cliche goes). How many men would join a soccer or rugby team coached by a woman? A few maybe, not many.
I think my real substantive point is to wonder whether a woman leader could easily relate to men (and they to her) in the models that I see in Scripture - which is a *father* (or *older brother*) in the household of faith. This is the model I see in the Pastoral Epistles." I think you are wrong because you set up a kind of 'straw man [!!]' of women's leadership. Briefly: will men stop relating to a church with a multiple gender staff of priests? (Did men leave NZ when we had female prime ministers?) Can a women priest not relate to men as a sister? (It does happen; works well here in our Diocese). So, while I share your general concern that the church could become over-feminized, I still do not see why that should prohibit the ordination of women.