I find it interesting and often amusing when the inner contradictions of our thought and worldview create a social space in which those once thought to be opponents become allies.
The BBC reported yesterday on the difficulty that Michele Bachmann is having with so-called “evangelical” Christians. You can listen to it between minutes 30:40 and 37:50 at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/p00hj6t8. Although Bachmann defines herself as an “evangelical,” many of her fellow evangelicals do not support her candidacy for president of the United States simply because she is a woman. The Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, a Christian feminist, however, does support Bachmann’s candidacy – although she probably does not support Bachmann’s political agenda.
The Rev. William Einwechter of a Free Reformed Baptist Church gave voice to many “evangelicals” who do not believe that women should be in positions of authority in their family, in their church, or in civil society. The basis for Einwechter’s belief is his particular interpretation of the Bible, which subordinates women to men because man was created first, because they interpret women as being portrayed as submissive and in a domestic context in Proverbs 31 and Titus 2, and because female leadership is depicted negatively in Isaiah 3:12. This is a particular interpretation as it does not identify the wife’s leadership in Proverbs 31, does not note positive examples of women in authority over men as in Judges 5, and struggles to reconcile to their proposal Paul’s statement “for just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God” (1 Corinthians 11:12). Moreover, Einwechter’s appeal to the Bible for models of civil leadership is weak because he does not consider the historical context as a limitation and contribution to God’s particular act or word for that time, person and setting. Also, God’s commandments concerning government are given within the context of the covenanted people ofIsrael; other forms of government, of which women sometimes led, are accepted as God-ordained (Romans 13).
Evangelicals, like Einwechter, support their position by appealing to the authority of Scripture as God’s definitive and infallible word. Einwechter believes that God’s word is not always understood, as in the case at hand, but should be obeyed even if it contradicts reason or experience. What Einwechter fails to see is that “God’s word” is always interpreted. And, on the basis of God’s word, I would interpret Einwechter’s interpretation as wrong. I do not find God doing anything in Scripture that is not explicable, and it seems that the appeal to a supra-rationality or a non-rationality ultimately leads to an anti-intellectual God and “stupid” and easily-manipulated Christians. I think that on the basis of their interpretive strategies they are unable to simultaneously subject women to men while viewing the killing one’s enemy (Joshua 8 ) or slavery (Titus 2) as being wrong. While I appreciate that Einwechter doesn’t think that political expediency should drive Christian faith, I actually think that he would be hard-pressed to support democracy and other American values with his biblical theology. What Michele Bachmann does for politics, Einwechter does for theology, causing me to distance myself from their brands of “evangelical.”
The Rev. Joan Brown Campbell affirms Bachmann’s candidacy as a woman because she finds gender mutuality in Scripture. Brown Campbell filters Scripture through God’s love and directs all action toward the Last Judgment in which each will give an account for how they treated the least of “God’s children.” While I would agree with Brown Campbell’s egalitarian view of women in church and society, I would also question her Biblical interpretation, which seems to presuppose much of liberal humanism. But, if I had to choose between Brown Campbell and Einwechter, I would find myself much closer to Brown Campbell, and, to my surprise, allies, in this instance, with Bachmann – and other female leaders in society.
Proverbs 31 has nothing to do with women’s leadership. You twisted every verse you quoted to support your argument. In fact, there is nothing in scripture that supports women holding public office. This was common knowledge before the big lie of feminism poisoned society. John Knox, great reformer: “To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion, or empire above any realm, nation, or city, is repugnant to nature, contumely [an insult] to God, a thing most contrary to his revealed will and approved ordinance, and finally, it is the subversion of good order, of all equity and justice.”
John Calvin: In his commentary on 1 Timothy 2:11-13, he explains that it is improper to use the example of Deborah to argue for women holding public office given that such is against the “ordinary system of government” ordained by God and revealed in his Scriptures.
This is Matthew Henry’s commentary on Proverbs 31:10-31. What are you seeing there that he and I don’t?
This is the description of a virtuous woman of those days, but the general outlines equally suit every age and nation. She is very careful to recommend herself to her husband’s esteem and affection, to know his mind, and is willing that he rule over her. 1. She can be trusted, and he will leave such a wife to manage for him. He is happy in her. And she makes it her constant business to do him good. 2. She is one that takes pains in her duties, and takes pleasure in them. She is careful to fill up time, that none be lost. She rises early. She applies herself to the business proper for her, to women’s business. She does what she does, with all her power, and trifles not. 3. She makes what she does turn to good account by prudent management. Many undo themselves by buying, without considering whether they can afford it. She provides well for her house. She lays up for hereafter. 4. She looks well to the ways of her household, that she may oblige all to do their duty to God and one another, as well as to her. 5. She is intent upon giving as upon getting, and does it freely and cheerfully. 6. She is discreet and obliging; every word she says, shows she governs herself by the rules of wisdom. She not only takes prudent measures herself, but gives prudent advice to others. The law of love and kindness is written in the heart, and shows itself in the tongue. Her heart is full of another world, even when her hands are most busy about this world. 7. Above all, she fears the Lord. Beauty recommends none to God, nor is it any proof of wisdom and goodness, but it has deceived many a man who made his choice of a wife by it. But the fear of God reigning in the heart, is the beauty of the soul; it lasts for ever. 8. She has firmness to bear up under crosses and disappointments. She shall reflect with comfort when she comes to be old, that she was not idle or useless when young. She shall rejoice in a world to come. She is a great blessing to her relations. If the fruit be good, the tree must have our good word. But she leaves it to her own works to praise her. Every one ought to desire this honour that cometh from God; and according to this standard we all ought to regulate our judgments. This description let all women daily study, who desire to be truly beloved and respected, useful and honourable. This passage is to be applied to individuals, but may it not also be applied to the church of God, which is described as a virtuous spouse? God by his grace has formed from among sinful men a church of true believers, to possess all the excellences here described
Thank you Eddie for reading and interacting with the blog.
I agree with you that Proverbs 31 does not speak about women holding public office. However, its picture of the ideal woman is one that does include leadership. She is buying and selling land, and she is creating cottage industry.
I agree with Henry that the qualities of the woman in Proverbs 31 are centered on man. The context is about men finding “good” women and not women who impede men. I especially like Henry’s allegorical interpretation of the woman as the church. I think that is a beautiful image, and I also think that it subverts the gender and power dynamics.
Your citations of Knox and Calvin, two theologians that I respect, reflect a particular interpretation that has to relegate the Scripture’s narrations of Deborah (Judges 4 and 5) and women who prophecy (Acts 21), but these great theologians still have to explain why God would choose to use women authoritatively.
Also, Calvin’s “ordinary system of government” was not a democracy, and it is a bit of a leap to think that the forms of government “ordained” by God in Scripture can be equated with those that we have today.
I am not against feminism, as you are – though I do have problems with the assumptions that undergird much of secular feminism. But I do not think that we, as Christians, need to introduce secular feminism into our hermeneutics. I think that Scripture already has the theology within its texts that speak to woman’s dignity and power.
Anyway, I do want to post some writings on my thoughts on feminism in future blog posts. So, look for those, and we can interact some more. In this one, I just wanted to point out that it’s interesting to see that one who closer to Bachmann’s politics is against her public service, while one who probably doesn’t share Bachmann’s politics is supporting her candidacy.