Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Brothers and sisters, the recent discussions of the Trinity and of complementarianism have revealed among other things the theological and historical shallowness of much that passes for state-of-the-art theology and social thought in Protestant circles. We really must do better. This week I’m sharing two guest posts that model depth of thought and positive engagement that surmount the stereotypical evangelical method with a deeper, more holistic approach to personhood. 
 
We first heard from a Reformed woman on singles and the church. Today I am going to share a Roman Catholic perspective on women and the church, asking the reader to take notice of the depth of thought and positive engagement with her church's teaching that Catholics typically use in engaging issues of personhood, specifically as they relate to issues of gender difference, marriage, singleness etc.  We post it here not because we agree with all that she says -- we do not do so, particularly her theology on Mary --, but rather to set before Protestant readers what can and should be done in engaging the pressing issues of our day in these areas.
 
 
Catholic Integral Complementarity
by Luma Simms
 
 
Note: Dear reader,  In light of the recent discussion on complementarity, the Nicene understanding of the Trinity, and the Eternal Subordination of the Son, I write here a simple description of Catholic integral complementarity. This is not a theological treatise with philosophical and theological proofs. Nor should this essay be taken as an aim at proselytizing the reader. I write it in good will, as your sister in Christ and as a Catholic convert from Protestantism, and from these very circles in particular. My hope is that this basic description of Catholic integral complementarity will help inform the intra-Protestant discourse on the topic. I ask that you read it charitably with an eye to glean understanding of this viewpoint and not only to refute. It is one thing to claim on paper or teach that women have equal dignity with men, it is another to build a culture which makes that gospel truth thrive; and yet another to read me, a woman, through that respectful lens—as you would respectfully read a male author. Lastly, please note that when I write Church in this essay, I am referring to the Roman Catholic Church and her Magisterium. 
 
 
The first, and most helpful thing to understand about the Roman Catholic Christian faith is that the theory of integral complementarity, is predicated on a foundational idea about man and the world God created. From this foundational idea others spring forth. Without understanding this “Catholic difference” nothing Catholic makes sense. George Weigel has written, “while Catholicism is a body of beliefs and a way of life, Catholicism is also an optic, a way of seeing things, a distinctive perception of reality.” Although it can be described in a variety of ways, I have found Weigel's the most helpful. 
 
 
He writes:
 
You can call it the 'Catholic both/and': nature and grace, faith and works, Jerusalem and Athens, faith and reason, charismatic and institutional, visible and invisible. You can call it the “sacramental imagination”... You can call it a taste for the analogical, as distinguished from some Protestants' taste for the dialectical.” [Emphasis in the original]
 
 
Therefore, in order to grasp how Catholics think about biblical complementarity and the complementarity even within the natural world God created, one must get this Catholic both/and thing. The Catholic both/and, in turn, rests on a fundamental Catholic understanding, one of the pillars of Catholicism: It is that grace does not destroy nature, but perfects and elevates it—transforming it, even in the here and now.
 
 
A HIGH VIEW OF WOMEN
 
One can not talk about Catholic integral complementarity without first talking about the Catholic Church's high view of women; and one can not talk about the Church's high view of women without first talking about Mary. Given the Protestant allergy to Mary (including my own while still a Protestant) I will keep this short and to the point. But first I would like to respectfully repeat that this is not a disputation, it is only an explanation.
 
 
Rejecting the Nestorian claim that Mary, the mother of Jesus be called the mother of Christ because she is only the mother of Jesus' human nature, the third ecumenical council, the Council of Ephesus in 431 re-affirmed the Nicene Creed, that, 
 
 
We confess the Word to have been made one with the flesh hypostatically, and we adore one Son and Lord, Jesus Christ. We do not divide him into parts and separate man and God in him, as though the two natures were mutually united only through a unity of dignity and authority.
 
 
And, 
 
[B]ecause the holy virgin bore in the flesh God who was united hypostatically with the flesh, for that reason we call her mother of God, not as though the nature of the Word had the beginning of its existence from the flesh (for 'the Word was in the beginning and the Word was God and the Word was with God', and he made the ages and is coeternal with the Father and craftsman of all things), but because, as we have said, he united to himself hypostatically the human and underwent a birth according to the flesh from her womb.
 
 
Thus Mary was called Theotokos (mother of God). Over and again in the Church's 2000 year history we see that advancement in understanding Mary (or what the Church has called Marian dogmas) came in reality because the Church had to defend against heresies. The focus of these theological battles was always Christ.
 
 
The second idea which has direct bearing on the issue of complementarity for Catholics is that Mary is the New Eve, or The Second Eve. This is not a new-fangled doctrine. From the earliest times, from the Fathers, John Henry Newman has written, this has been “the prima facie view of her person and office.” And as Irenaeus wrote: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith.” Many Church Fathers can be quoted, but this is sufficient for the present. 
 
 
And so the Church's high view of women begins first and foremost because of her high view of Mary, the mother of God and her role as the second Eve. “Thus in the Blessed Virgin the figure of ‘woman' is rehabilitated” said Pope John Paul II. “Blessed is she who believed,” Elizabeth said of the Virgin Mary; the Church has always believed that Mary was the first disciple, the exemplar disciple. But not an Apostle, she never claimed apostolic powers for herself. Nor has the Church ever assigned apostolic powers to Mary. But rather through the directive of Jesus while on the cross she becomes the mother of all disciples: “Woman, behold, your son!” And to the disciple “Behold, your mother!” 
 
 
The reason that Mary is “full of grace,” the Church has said, is because of Ephesians 1:3-6 (Redemptoris Mater, no. 7-11). Here is how John Henry Newman puts it:
 
"Does not the objector consider that Eve was created, or born, without original sin? Why does not this shock him? Would he have been inclined to worship Eve in that first estate of hers? Why, then, Mary?
 
"Does he [the objector] not believe that St. John Baptist had the grace of God—i.e., was regenerated, even before his birth? What do we believe of Mary, but that grace was given her at a still earlier period? All we say is, that grace was given her from the first moment of her existence.
 
“We do not say that she did not owe her salvation to the death of her son.”
 
 
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger has written:
 
The angel's greeting makes it clear that the blessing is more powerful than the curse. The sign of the woman has become the sign of hope; she is the signpost of hope. God's decision for man that becomes visible in her "is more powerful than any experience of evil and sin, than all the 'enmity' that marks the history of men." 
 
 
This high view of Mary, which leads to a high view of women, never eclipses her son. But in fact it is seen as deepening and enriching our knowledge of our Redeemer. And here we come to our first set of both/and. A high view of Jesus and Mary, leads to a high view of men and women. 
 
 
In Catholicism one does not have to downplay Mary, her person, her role, her life and contribution to salvation history; she stands “'at the center of [the] salvific event' which is God's self-revelation to the world,” writes Weigel. There is no competition here. Jesus is God incarnate, he is the one and only Mediator; there is no salvation outside of Christ. None of this, however, means we need to relegate Mary to the role of a surrogate womb. Honoring her does not take glory away from him, it does not dishonor him. Dishonoring her, dishonors him. As John Henry Newman put it: “Why not honour Our Lord in our respectful mention of his Mother? Why, because some Christians exceed in their devotion, become irreverent?”
 
 
It is the result of the Cartesian worldview that this either/or competition creeps in. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger says it thus:
 
An exaggerated solus Christus compelled its adherents to reject any cooperation of the creature, any independent significance of its response, as a betrayal of the greatness of grace. Consequently, there could be nothing meaningful in the feminine line of the Bible stretching from Eve to Mary. Patristic and medieval reflections on that line were, with implacable logic, branded as a recrudescence of paganism, as treason against the uniqueness of the Redeemer. Today's radical feminisms have to be understood as the long-repressed explosion of indignation against this sort of one-sided reading of Scripture.
 
 
“She [Mary] is not allowed to hide herself behind her Son in false humility,” Hans Urs von Balthasar has written. And again, “the Church begins with the Yes of the Virgin of Nazareth.” Balthasar makes it clear in Women Priests? A Marian Church in a Fatherless and Motherless Culture, that the Church, founded by Jesus Christ, ushers in a new cosmos, one in which there is a balance of the feminine and masculine. He writes:
 
Because of her unique structure, the Catholic Church is perhaps humanity's last bulwark of genuine appreciation of the difference between the sexes. 
 
 
Pope John Paul II, acknowledged that throughout history across many world cultures and at times by the Church herself, “women's dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude.” Not only did he apologize to women for whatever part the Church played in treating women as second-class citizens, but he called for a “time to examine the past with courage, to assign responsibility where it is due in a review of the long history of humanity.” Women throughout history, in spite of their heroic and substantial contributions to society have been underestimated and ignored. In his many writings on women he acknowledges all this and more, he worked hard to re-assert the equal dignity of women, calling the Church and the world to “uphold the dignity, role, and rights” of women by working for full integration of women into the social, political, and economic life of a democratic state. 
 
 
We come now to another both/and regarding women; that is the Catholic Church's call to advance the dignity of women in all areas of life, in what Pope John Paul II called “a new feminism,” and keep the significant difference between men and woman. More on this below. This high view has consequences, most significantly in that the Church does not look askance at women. This is the consequences of the “blessing” being “more powerful than the curse.” In other words, women are a blessing and a necessary part of the Church and the world community, not a threat and a curse to be suspect and restrained. 
 
 
CATHOLIC INTEGRAL COMPLEMENTARY THEORY
 
Catholic integral complementary theory rests on two theological foundations: The human person is created in the image and likeness of God, “a being at once corporeal and spiritual,” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states it, and that man is of a single nature—matter and spirit are united. “The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the 'form' of the body.” Thus the Church holds that man is an embodied soul created in the image and likeness of God. 
 
 
Catholic hylomorphic anthropology and philosophy, then, stands against the Cartesian view that the mind is separate from the gendered body. Moreover, René Descartes' metaphysical claim that the locus of an individual's identity lies in the sexless mind, making the physical body superfluous, has bequeathed us much of the “gender fluidity” we see in our culture today. As significant, this Cartesian dualism gave rise to what Catholics call fractional complementarity (male and female are significantly different each providing a fraction of the whole) in some Protestant circles, or what is sometimes called “hierarchical complementarity,” a complementarity which is curbed by a one-sided submission—that of the woman to the man—which inserts a kind of polarity in the relationship giving prominence of the man over the woman, and opening the door to the sinful inclination of the man to dominate the woman. 
 
 
On the other side of the spectrum there is radical feminism which pushes for a unisex gender theory, and somewhere along this spectrum is egalitarianism which neglects and downplays the specific diversity between men and women—the thinking being: if the mind is sexless, and the male and female mind are equal, then why can't women be just like men?
 
 
The Catholic response, has been to reject all of the distortions of ontological complementarity of man and woman discussed above, for what is termed an integral complementarity. A complementarity which neither neglects the fundamental equality of dignity of man and woman, nor the natural created order, nor the significant differences between man and woman. Again, there is the Catholic both/and: Man and woman are fundamentally equal, there is a natural order of the husband-wife relationship, and there is significant diversity between them.
 
 
One of the issues Pope John Paul II takes up in his magnificent Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body is to delve into all the ramifications of Christ's words when He said: “From the beginning.” This helped and continues to help the Church think deeply about what God intended for the husband and wife relationship “from the beginning.” And to articulate well its integral complementarity. The Church understands the women's movement, there is something deeply wrong in the way women have been treated, and continue to be treated, the Church has said. The Fathers of the fourth century spoke out against this (see footnote 33 in Mulieris Dignitatem), and the Church today continues to speak out against the discrimination of women. This mistreatment is due to the sin of our first parents, the sin which fractured their communion—original sin. “Original justice [was] destroyed, the control of the soul's spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination” (CCC 400). “Burdened by hereditary sinfulness, they bear within themselves the constant 'inclination to sin', the tendency to go against the moral order which corresponds to the rational nature and dignity of man and woman as persons” wrote Pope John Paul II. 
 
 
The consequences of man's sin, and the language which describes the future relationship between husband and wife, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Gen. 3:16), is a serious threat, especially for the woman, “since domination takes the place of 'being a sincere gift.'”  And “at the same time it also diminishes the true dignity of the man.” The Catholic interpretation of Gen. 3:16 (which is done with an eye toward Matthew 5: 27-28) is layered and complex, addressing shame, concupiscence, corruption of the consciousness of the unitive meaning of the body, the corruption of the spousal meaning of the body, and the insatiability of the union. I risk a distillation for our present purposes: man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self to the other. But the “unity of the two” was broken, man and woman are now obstructed by their deep interior shame and concupiscence from the deep spiritual and bodily union they were to have with one another. They are now “threatened by the insatiability of that union and unity, which does not cease to attract man and woman.” They aspire to what they had but are now obstructed by their concupiscence from attaining it. The woman experiences this insatiability for their union acutely, and the man dominates her. But since they are both plunged into the threefold concupiscence of 1 John 2:16—the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life, they both exhibit this threefold concupiscence in their relationship with one another. 
 
 
Writing in Mulieris Dignitatem:
 
This "domination" indicates the disturbance and loss of the stability of that fundamental equality which the man and the woman possess in the "unity of the two": and this is especially to the disadvantage of the woman, whereas only the equality resulting from their dignity as persons can give to their mutual relationship the character of an authentic "communio personarum.”
 
 
Sin diminished man (as male and female), it darkened his intellect and weakened his will, but it did not destroy the image and likeness of God in the human being. Jesus Christ and his Gospel transforms the husband-wife relationship, setting them free to live according to His calling. 
 
 
However, as Weigel writes, “the liberation of women from these patterns of domination can never be a liberation against. It must be a liberation for, one that safeguards the distinctive vocation of women and men that results from what the Pope calls their 'personal originality.'” We see then that our understanding of freedom plays a crucial role in the response against injustice; it dictates our moral choices. Men and women are set free by Christ from the old curse. Both must ask what freedom is for. The Church embraces Thomas Aquinas's freedom for excellence, over and against William of Ockham's freedom of indifference. (This plays a crucial role in understanding complementarity see bibliography below for more on this.) As Pope John Paul II pushed for continued freedom for women, he nonetheless gives them a warning in Mulieris Dignitatem:
 
 
[E]ven the rightful opposition of women to what is expressed in the biblical words "He shall rule over you" (Gen 3:16) must not under any condition lead to the "masculinization" of women. In the name of liberation from male "domination", women must not appropriate to themselves male characteristics contrary to their own feminine "originality". There is a well-founded fear that if they take this path, women will not "reach fulfillment", but instead will deform and lose what constitutes their essential richness. It is indeed an enormous richness. 
 
 
 
The four principles of Catholic integral complementarity are: Equal dignity (Gen. 1:26), Significant difference (Gen. 1:27), Synergetic relation (Gen. 1:28, 2:24), and Intergenerational fruition (Gen. 5). I am not going to give an extended rationale for this categorization here; please see the bibliography at the end for further theological and philosophical support.
 
 
COMPLEMENTARITY CARRIES WITH IT RECIPROCITY
 
The Catholic Church understands Ephesians 5:22-33 within the context of the entire 5th chapter. This means “wives be subject to your husbands” is held in that Catholic both/and with other verses in Ephesians 5 and balanced with the rest of Scriptures, especially Jesus' treatment of women in the gospels. So it is never an either/or, and it is never separated from “be imitators of God...walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us...walk as children of light...be filled with the Spirit...addressing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs...be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives be subject to your husbands... Husbands love your wives...let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
 
 
Complementarity, therefore, in the Catholic understanding, is never untethered from reciprocity. When Pope John Paul II analyzes this section of Scripture in his monumental Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body he writes:
 
What is at issue here is a relationship with two dimensions or on two levels: reciprocal and communitarian. One specifies and characterizes the other. The reciprocal relations of husband and wife must spring from their common relation with Christ. [This reciprocity is rooted in the “fear of Christ”] The author [he is referring to St. Paul] speaks about the mutual submission of the spouses, husband and wife, and in this way shows also how to understand the word he writes afterward about the submission of the wife to the husband. … This relationship is nevertheless no one-sided submission.... Husband and wife are, in fact, “subject to one another,” mutually subordinated to one another. The source of this reciprocal submission lies in Christian pietas and its expression is love. [Emphasis in the original]
 
 
Love excludes every kind of submission by which the wife would become a servant or slave of the husband, an object of one-sided submission. Love makes the husband simultaneously subject to the wife, and subject in this to the Lord himself, as the wife is to the husband. The community or unity that they should constitute because of marriage is realized through a reciprocal gift, which is also a mutual submission. Christ is the source and at the same time the model of that submission. [Emphasis in the original]
 
Patriarchy in the Scriptures is descriptive not prescriptive. A one-sided submission—as in “he will rule over you”—infects the “communion of persons” which lies at the very nature of marriage. Pope John Paul II writes, “marriage, in its deepest essence, emerges from the mystery of God's eternal love for man and humanity: from the salvific mystery that Christ's spousal love fulfills in time for the Church....marriage in its very essence stands Christ's spousal relationship with the Church.” The Church teaches that love is a self-gift, you love by giving yourself as a gift to the other. It is a false dichotomy—one which Pope John Paul II especially pushed against—to claim that in order to fight against the destruction of marriage, and the damage of the sexual revolution and radical feminism we must re-stress the husband-wife hierarchy with emphasis on the wife's submission. That was one of the problems which partially gave rise to modern radical feminism. See the work of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger, Catholic philosopher Sr. Prudence Allen, R.S.M., and St. Edith Stein. Much could be said on that one point alone. But let us go on.
 
 
I understand there can be some misunderstanding here since St. Paul specifically says that Christ is the Head of the Church. Indeed the Church submits to Christ as her Head, because the Church is the Body, never the Head of Christ. Yet at the same time, one can say reciprocally, he submits to her through his self-sacrificial love. Christ came to serve the Church and give himself up for her. That is the reciprocity the Catholic Church teaches for husband and wife. The wife submits to her husband by respecting him and the husband reciprocally submits by his self-sacrificial service and love. See Pope Leo XIII's Arcanum (On Christian Marriage), Pope Pius XI's Casti Connubii (Chaste Marriage, On Christian Marriage) Mulieris Dignitatem (The Dignity of Women) for more on this topic.
 
 
And this brings us to the natural created order of husband and wife. The Church teaches that Adam was created before Eve. The marriage of our first parents, Adam and Eve, was corrupted after they sinned. Thus giving us the sinful patterns of abuse, domination, and objectivization. But this is precisely where supernatural grace comes in—grace perfects and elevates nature—and “transforms marriage into mutual self-giving and mutual submission,” as friend and Catholic philosopher Dr. Bryan Cross has put it. 
 
 
I would like to add one more point to this section and that is the submitting one to another never does away with the significant difference between the man and the woman in Catholic integral complementarity. Again it is not either/or, it is both/and. Husband and wife mutually give themselves as gift to the other, submit one to another out of love and fear of the Lord, their relationship is perfected by the grace of God sanctifying them, and they maintain their significant difference, they continue to be ontologically and metaphysically different.
 
 
DIVINE LIKENESS
 
During her 2000 year history the Church has been cautious about analogizing too much between the Holy Trinity and man and woman in marriage. After all, this is the same Church who gave the world the Nicene Creed (which it confesses every Sunday in its liturgy), the indefatigable Athanasius and the Athanasian Creed, and the ecumenical councils. Having fought many heresies to defend the Trinity, the Church has been circumspect in this area. The closest the Church has come to making such a comparison is Pope John Paul II's writing about the communion of love within the Holy Trinity.
 
From Mulieris Dignitatem:
 
[Regarding the truth of God's oneness and unity in the Old Testament] Within this fundamental truth about God the New Testament will reveal the inscrutable mystery of God's inner life. God, who allows himself to be known by human beings through Christ, is the unity of the Trinity: unity in communion. In this way new light is also thrown on man's image and likeness to God, spoken of in the Book of Genesis. The fact that man "created as man and woman" is the image of God means not only that each of them individually is like God, as a rational and free being. It also means that man and woman, created as a "unity of the two" in their common humanity, are called to live in a communion of love, and in this way to mirror in the world the communion of love that is in God, through which the Three Persons love each other in the intimate mystery of the one divine life. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God through the unity of the divinity, exist as persons through the inscrutable divine relationship. Only in this way can we understand the truth that God in himself is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:16).
 
 
The image and likeness of God in man, created as man and woman (in the analogy that can be presumed between Creator and creature), thus also expresses the "unity of the two" in a common humanity. This "unity of the two", which is a sign of interpersonal communion, shows that the creation of man is also marked by a certain likeness to the divine communion ("communio"). This likeness is a quality of the personal being of both man and woman, and is also a call and a task.” 
 
 
So we see here that the Church doesn't start with human marriage relationship (human communio) and project back into the divine, rather the one analogy, so to speak, which can be safely made is that the divine communio is the prime communio. The Church does not make a direct link between man and God the Father, and between woman and one of the other members of the Holy Trinity. 
 
 
Pope John Paul II cautions regarding analogies to the Holy Trinity. He writes in Mulieris Dignitatem:
 
[T]he language of the Bible is sufficiently precise to indicate the limits of the "likeness", the limits of the "analogy". For biblical Revelation says that, while man's "likeness" to God is true, the "non-likeness" [Cf. Num 23:19; Hos 11:9; Is 40:18; 46:5; cf. also Fourth Lateran Council (DS 806)] which separates the whole of creation from the Creator is still more essentially true. Although man is created in God's likeness, God does not cease to be for him the one "who dwells in unapproachable light" (1 Tim 6:16): he is the "Different One", by essence the "totally Other".
 
CONSEQUENCES OF INTEGRAL COMPLEMENTARITY
 
The description I have given above of Catholic integral complementarity is a simple sketch. Within the Church this doctrine is more complex—touching on and interconnected with the fact that marriage is a sacrament, the indissolubility of marriage, the Church's position on the dignity and sanctity of all human life (unborn, disabled, the aged, the poor, the incarcerated, etc.), celibacy, the vocation to religious life, Mary the mother of God, apostolic succession, the priesthood, and of course, the Church's teaching on the morally appropriate way to regulate birth.
 
 
I have described Catholic integral complementarity as it is promulgated by the Church, this does not mean that the Catholic Church is perfect or that it doesn't have its own progressive wing. Catholic integral complementarity has not become a slippery slope leading to woman priests, etc. Although some within the progressive wing did push for ordination of women, the Church has spoken definitively on this matter. For those interested please see Pope John Paul II's Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (On Reserving Priestly Ordination To Men Alone).
 
 
The Catholic Church keeps a glacial pace, working in 50 and 100 year increments, so she tends to be slow to respond sometimes, which in reality can be a good thing. Nevertheless, the Church is always reforming (semper ecclesia reformanda) but with continuity, never a rupture from the past. Again that both/and. Blessed John Henry Newman, well versed in the history of ecumenical councils, along with his work on the development of doctrine has helped, and will continue to help the Church grow more faithful to God's divine truth. “For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her,” Dei Verbum.
 
 
Thank you for the opportunity to share with you how your brethren in Christ in the Roman Catholic Church approach this subject. It is not my place nor my desire to involve myself in the current intra-Protestant discourse on complementarity and the doctrine of the Trinity. I will relay only one personal note here: In my ecclesiastical journey, I never experienced such respect as a woman as I have in the Roman Catholic Church and in the culture which she strives to build. I hope this essay has been helpful to the reader.  Peace to you in Christ Jesus.
 
 
 
Bibliography
 
Arcanum (Secret; On Christian Marriage) Pope Leo XIII; Casti Connubii (Chaste Marriage, On Christian Marriage) Pope Pius XI; Catechism of the Catholic Church © 1994; Dei Verbum (God's Word, Dogmatic Constitution On Divine Revelation, a Vatican II document); Familiaris Consortio (On The Role Of The Christian Family In The Modern World) Pope John Paul II; Gaudium et spes (Joy and Hope, The Pastoral Constitution On The Church In The Modern World, a Vatican II document); Humanae Vitae (On Human Life) Paul VI; Letter Of Pope John Paul II To Women Pope John Paul II; Letters to a Young Catholic by George Weigel; Lumen Gentium (The Light, Dogmatic Constitution On The Church, a Vatican II document); Man and Woman He Created Them: The Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II; Man-Woman Complementarity: The Catholic Inspiration by Sr. Prudence Allen, R.R.M; Mary, the Second Eve, by John Henry Newman; Morality: The Catholic View, by Servais Pinckaers, O.P.; Mulieris Dignitatem (On The Dignity And Vocation Of Women) Pope John Paul II; Mulieris Dignitatem Twenty Years Later: An Overview of the Document and Challenges by Sr. Prudence Allen, R.S.M.; Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (On Reserving Priestly Ordination To Men Alone) Pope John Paul II; Promise and Challenge: Catholic Women Reflect on Feminism, Complementarity, And The Church edited by Mary Rice Hasson; Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer) Pope John Paul II; The Collected Works of Edith Stein, by Edith Stein translated by Freda Mary Oben, Ph.D.; The Sign of the Woman, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger; To The Disciple He Said, 'Behold Your Mother' Pope John Paul II General Audience of Wednesday, 23 April 1997;  Witness To Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II by George Weigel; Women Priests? A Marian Church in a fatherless and motherless culture by Hans Urs von Balthasar.
 
Luma Simms writes on culture, family, philosophy, politics, religion, and on the life and thought of immigrants. Her work has appeared at Crisis Magazine, First Things Magazine, Public Discourse, and The Federalist. She is the author of Gospel Amnesia: Forgetting the Goodness of the News. Her educational background includes a B.S. in physics from California State Polytechnic University Pomona. She studied law at Chapman University School of Law before leaving to become an at-home-mom. At Chapman Law, Luma, was research assistant to Dr. John C. Eastman, which included work for The Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence. She also clerked for Superior Court Judge James P. Gray of Orange County, California. Luma lives in Arizona with her husband and five children.
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Brothers and sisters, the recent discussions of the Trinity and of complementarianism have revealed among other things the theological and historical shallowness of much that passes for state-of-the-art theology and social thought in Protestant circles. We really must do better. This week I’m sharing two guest posts that model depth of thought and positive engagement that surmount the stereotypical evangelical method with a deeper, more holistic approach to personhood. This first piece deals with the topic of singles and the church by a woman writing from the Reformed perspective:

 
How Do We Solve a Problem Like the Singles?
 
Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24
 
 
What the Catholics Know About Singleness
Protestants are clueless about singleness. In spite of the many strengths of my reformed Presbyterian upbringing, at 25 I had absorbed the church culture’s implied teaching about singleness – that it is a state of interminable suffering.  Accepting that I would be crippled without my “better half” until marriage, I turned to my church’s much better teaching about suffering.  As in Herbert’s poem, “The Pulley” my loneliness and restlessness tossed me to Christ’s breast, and that rich friendship is not one I would trade for any number of dates with the dashing music director. Yet while it is quite true that there is a suffering in singleness, much of it results from the contradictory attitudes in the church; if Paul was right about the blessings of singleness, why does the church seem to pity us so much? 
 
 
Among the Catholics I met while in graduate school at the University of Dallas, this contradiction was far less apparent. There, I met the numeraries of Opus Dei – a semi-monastic order of (essentially) nuns and monks who have jobs in the “real” world, but live together in large houses where they minister to the community and the church.  The presence of convents and monasteries changed all the assumptions about singleness among these devout Catholics.  Here, singles had more opportunities for enjoyment of God, for service.  They had a voice.  They, in fact, had to tell the other Catholics that they were not holier than married people – a sentiment summed up in the Catholic girls’ complaint that “God gets the best and we get the rest.”  I’ll not deny the problematic theology here, but the Protestant theology that the singles are the poor left-overs is hardly an improvement.  
 
 
The Protestant Message in a Sexual Age
When I returned to Protestant (specifically reformed Presbyterian) circles, my ear was tuned to notice the cultural pressures towards sex, the Protestant pressure toward marriage, and the silence of the pulpit.  In their most recent podcast on the Sexual Revolution, the MOS team summed up our culture’s immense pressure toward sexual identity.  Christine Colon takes it one step further in her book Singled Out – culture tells us that virgins are immature and emotionally stunted neurotics whose only escape is in having sex. Christian singles hear this from culture and from the church that sex outside marriage is wrong.  The result is that the slightest nudge toward marriage from a well-meaning believer comes across to the single like another reminder that we are immature and emotionally stunted and our only hope for happiness is marriage. 
 
 
We are told to both “enjoy our singleness while we can” and to “get serious about getting married.” When I answer the “Are you dating” question in the negative, the look of pity, confusion, surprise, and embarrassment that follows is another reminder that I as a “professional” woman am outside the experience of the housewife with three children. What follows is rarely helpful: “Maybe you’re too assertive,” “Don’t worry!  You’re pretty!” “That’s right – party it up!” and the recent classic – “Have you tried eHarmony?” In the Mrs-Bennet-like moves to cure the problem of our singleness combined with the pulpits’ occasional teaching that singleness is good, both married and single people have grown confused.
In hyper-complementarian and patriarchic circles the damage goes even further.  If all women are to submit to all men, and if a woman’s natural place is in the home, where does that leave single women who work for a living?  Can a woman be the boss of men?  Can she even take pleasure in her work outside the home?  And when she does return to that empty home at night, what happens to her sense of “femininity” if she is then too tired to keep house like a good woman should?  
 
 
The Difficulty of Content Singleness
Contentment is difficult for singles because from our perspective, both the believing and unbelieving world seem to agree that happiness in celibacy is impossible.  In both worlds, sex/marriage has become a defining threshold between childhood and adulthood. We are children, teenagers, college-age, single, then married. When we pass 30 or 40 and are still celibate, everyone (literally) thinks something’s gone wrong.
 
 
Even popular scientific theories like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs classes the need for sex at the same level as food, water and air.  If the church does not answer, is it any wonder that Christian singles sometimes conclude that masturbation is not wrong and that pornography is at least better than the alternative?  Essentially, we come to believe that God has given us “everything pertaining to life and godliness” except a spouse. 
 
 
The God Who Satisfies 
It is just such erroneous thinking that provoked Paul’s comments on marriage and singleness in 1 Corinthians 7, the premise for which appears in the end of chapter 6.  There, as he calls the Corinthians out of their sexual immorality, Paul quotes the saying, “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” (6:13). In other words, as the stomach is meant for food, so the body is meant for sex. Paul disagrees. The body “is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (6:13). This means that for the married person and the single, there is some need more pressing than sex (or food or air) that can only God can satisfy.  
 
 
“Your body is a temple” (6:19), then, is not meant as motivation to work out or eat well, but rather to keep from sexual immorality. Because the believer’s soul is united to God in a way similar to the uniting of a married couple (6:17), the sexually immoral person “sins against his own body” (6:18). We think that as long as we’re not hurting anyone else, then it’s not wrong.  But for the Christ-indwelt believer, masturbation and pornography are deeply wounding to the God who lives in us. “You are not your own,” as a husband’s body is not his own. “So glorify God in your body” (6:19-20).
 
 
This sounds serious, but the implications are radically liberating.  You don’t need to get married or have sex to live a rich life! The single person is a whole person on their own. They wait for no “better half” to live the good life.  That life is for now. That contentment is for now.  
 
 
In fact, living a content, celibate life is one of the ways that the single participates in the marriage metaphor. We know that the relationship between a man and wife symbolizes Christ’s relationship with his church.  The single reminds that church that it is with Christ that that relationship ultimately exists.  To live as a content single now, while longing for that future satisfaction, is our way of bearing Christ’s image in the world. 
 
 
The Call to Happy Christian Singleness
 Though content, celibate, singleness is certainly not easy, and though suffering well is a way of bearing Christ’s image in the world for a time, denying the essential good of singleness is calling God’s gifts bad. The Father does not give bad gifts to his children.  Ultimately, then, if you are a single believer, congratulations!  For now at least, you have the “gift of singleness.” 
 
 
Now, that claim usually gets me raised eyebrows and lots of questions.  The answers are in I Corinthians Chapter 7. 
 
 
This is the (in?)famous “gift of singleness” passage, which never uses the words “gift of singleness” at all. Instead, what we think of as “singleness” is really treated as just the baseline of the Christian calling. Marriage has added responsibilities, but everyone is first called to the ordinary, individual, Christian life.  When I am told that my apparent “gift of singleness,” of not longing for marriage makes my message irrelevant to those who do long for marriage, I am confused.  Should those who inherit the enormous ocean of Christ’s riches be characterized by
sorrow because they lack the thimbleful of marriage?  
 
 
Yet because marriage is a good thing to desire, we assume it isn’t wrong to be sad that we don’t have it. In fact, it’s almost considered a virtue in this age of equating marriage to maturity. But if we were to replace the term “marriage” with any other (an orderly house, a trip to Bora-Bora, tiny houses…) it is immediately clear that this is idolatry in disguise. Kevin DeYoung notes in his book on same-sex attraction that “A minivan full of kids on the way to Disneyland is a wonderful good, but a terrible god.”  Neither marriage nor singleness is better.  They are simply different states in which we live out our Christian calling.
 
 
Paul’s assertion in I Corinthians that singleness is better may, in fact, be his way of expressing his contentment with his own state. One who is content is often inclined to think his life happier than another’s.  Perhaps it is good for the average married person to think her life is happier than a single’s, and it is right for the single to think his life is happier than the marrieds’. 
 
 
What is the Good of Singleness?
Once I convince my friends that singleness is not inherently bad, I often find that they will admit that their singleness is good for others.  Now they have all this free time to do what married people cannot they may assume the best use of their singleness is nursery duty. While some should certainly be working in the nursery, that duty is not necessarily inherent to singleness. 
 
 
Instead, the first and greatest benefit of singleness is “undistracted devotion to the Lord.” As with every believer, a single’s work should spill naturally out of that devotion to God, but the work is not the first goal. And we must also remember that the fruit of the Spirit is varied; there are as many ways to live a godly single life as there are to live a godly married life – perhaps even more. People are remarkably unique, after all.  
 
 
So one single who is free from worldly anxieties, and who devotes that freedom to “heavenly anxieties,” may end up spending their life in a very different way from another single.  I am often told “I know singleness can be good.  There was this single lady in our church – such a happy person!  And she ran the whole children’s ministry.”  That’s wonderful. But it’s not for everyone.  I know one single woman who spent her free time becoming a professional fly-fisherwoman.  Now she travels all over the world as a fly-fishing guide to the rich and famous and has a unique ministry to them as a result. Another worked hard at a good job, bought a big house, and then in her fifties two teenage girls who needed a stable home moved in with her. There are a million other possibilities too.  So encourage singles to dig into prayer first, and then to be creative with their freedom, “only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal 5:13). As with all aspects of the Christian life, we are not “The Christ,” or the Savior of others – we simply live the life he gives us in quietness and contentment.
 
 
How Can I Help the Singles? How Can We Help Each Other?
And to such a life of quiet contentment should we be encouraging one another.  I’m beginning to hear married people ask what they can do to help the singles.  I find the question disarming but also problematic.  The thirty-something single has indeed lived an extremely different life from the thirty-something who married at twenty, and we should acknowledge the differences before we can understand each other. 
 
 
But after a great deal of discussion, study and prayer, it has become clear that singles are not actually that different from the married!  Responsibilities and life experience differ and should be acknowledged, but our identity before the throne of God, where believers find their worth in Christ, is the same.  In that place, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female,” neither married or unmarried, “for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
 
 
This unity in Christ means that more fundamental to the call to marriage or singleness is the call to follow Christ. The real question is how we might encourage each unique individual “to love and good deeds” (Heb 10:24). Because of the pressures from all sides to get married and have sex, it is probable that the single person needs to be affirmed as a whole person.  Dropping the “this is my better half” would be a great start. Married people are not “halves” either! 
 
 
Most importantly, do not assume that all singles (or married people, for that matter) are alike. Approach each with that loving curiosity that asks just the right question and gives encouragement unique to them. Some singles will flourish best when drawn into another family.  Let them in, if you are so called. Others may simply want to be your friend.  If so, don’t withhold from them the struggles of married life.  I have learned much about friendship through the struggles of my married friends, and married people may be surprised to discover in their single friends a more unbiased perspective than another married person can give. Mutually look for what the other married/single person can teach, remembering that we all are independent, single, set-apart people in the end.
 
 
And, Single Christian, I know, because I have felt it myself, that singleness can be intensely and uniquely lonely.  Don’t deny it when it happens, but do not think that marriage will solve it. Loneliness knows no distinction between marriage and singleness.  But let the suffering have that good effect that all suffering has for the believer.  Because we do remind the church that her ultimate satisfaction in Christ, there is a longing for heaven built into our kind of image bearing. So run to Christ with the longing, and you will find the burden lighter. 
 
 
Consider too, that all the virtues which make singleness easier are not ones that a western church tends to emphasize:  quietness in solitude, commitment in friendship, patience while working, and contented celibacy. You must be an independent thinker if you’re to live this radical kind of life.  And it is a radical, adventurous life. In our culture, this is uncharted territory. 
 
 

 

 Also, interpret kindly the well-meant efforts of your married friends. As you get to know them better, you may be surprised to hear how common the sufferings of the faithful Christian life are.  From my married friends, I have learned how to live in relationship with others; from my single friends, how to pursue God’s call with a peaceful kind of energy. Marrieds and singles have the same sin struggles, the same call, the same Lord. So drag each other heavenward, “encouraging one another and so much the more as you see the day approaching” (Heb 10:25).  And know that really, “glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land.”
 
 
Rachel Kilgore is starting her 3rd year in the English PhD. program at Baylor and is a member at Redeemer PCA in Waco, Texas. She grew up in Houston and went to the University of Dallas for a Master's degree in English. After that, Rachel taught as an English adjunct for 3 years in Dallas and Houston before realizing how necessary the PhD. was for teaching English long-term. She usually studies Jane Austen, the ethics of reading, and the development of the novel. 
Posted on Wednesday, July 20, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

This is a common teaching on headship as Christians try to work out the practical implications of Eph. 5:15-33. One wise husband who emailed me commented that he and his wife have humbly been trying to work out what this passage means for 36 years now, and he still has a lot to learn:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,  because we are members of his body.  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

He points out an interesting comment a husband made in a marriage counseling session with Dr. James Boice (I believe he is quoting from his booklet, How to Be Happy as a Family).  More people may think this way about what headship means than possibly admit it:

“I was counseling a couple who were soon to be married, and I asked if they understood what God meant when He said that the wife was to be in subjection to her husband and that the husband was to love his wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. The wife was wise enough to remain silent. But the man blurted out, ‘That means that we are to love each other; but whenever we disagree I am to give her a hug and a kiss, and after that we're to do things my way.’" 

Ruth Tucker addresses this way of thinking in her book, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife, quoting well-meaning men who actually apply this right down to differences in opinion of where the married couple will grab their dinner for the night. She then asks, “How do egalitarians work out differences in their marriages? Who is the tiebreaker? When I asked my complementarian colleague about how his headship might look in relationship to the daily routine, I had actually expected something more significant than whether or not to eat at Taco Bell” (49). She then explains the mutuality in an egalitarian marriage when it comes to decision-making:

How do egalitarians deal with a tiebreaker situation? Let’s say the husband is offered a transfer with a substantial salary increase; the wife is settled in the neighborhood---near family, schools, and church. But the husband wants the opportunity to climb the career ladder. Or let’s say the situation is reversed, and the wife has an opportunity to climb the ladder to success. Such a life-changing decision should simply be based on mutuality, and no major move should be made until both husband and wife are fully on board. Can this lead to serious conflict? Of course it can, no matter whether the marriage is based on equality or male headship. (49)

I disagree with both her complementarian examples and the egalitarian one she offers. If no major move is made until both husband and wife are fully on board, one is already submitting---the one who doesn’t get to move. She is right, that will lead to serious conflict. I would say that the biblical model of marriage, as described in Eph. 5, would call for the husband to give himself first to sacrifice for his wife. As the head in the Christian context of the kingdom of God, he should be the first to sacrifice. But I do have a caveat. Every situation is different. If we are talking about where to eat dinner, husbands submit to your wife and sacrifice for her in that way---unless your wife seems to have no concern about pleasing you ever. If she is never willing to sacrifice and submit her own desires to please you, then you have a problem. That doesn't mean it's time to "rule over her," but it probably means it is time for a conversation about how you are to love one another. You don't demand submission, it is a voluntary gift. Wives, care about where your husband wants to eat too. Don’t take advantage of his being the first to sacrifice. But most of us already know this, right?

In a marriage, decisions are made together.

When it comes to something more substantial, like uprooting the family for a career, both husband and wife should empathize with one another. I do believe the husband is called to sacrifice first for the wife. But the first priority of that sacrifice for his wife is to consider the effects of their decision under the mission of God he is entrusted to for his family. The point of headship is unity. There is a theological mission attached to being the head of the household, and the husband is to tend to this.  It is eschatological. We are moving toward something---our mission to be summed up in Christ’s household, to be sanctified for his purposes, and to reign with him on the new heavens and the new earth. This eschatological goal shapes the mission of the household. This mission needs to reach the next generation and the ones after that. And so the head needs to ensure that our faith is articulated well, that the members of the household live accordingly, and that it is passed down to the next generation. This is true of the family, and of the household of God, his church. 

So there are other factors to consider, such as the condition of their finances, is the spouse’s job unbearable, how much time does each spouse have to spend away from the household to earn a living, how it will affect the wellbeing of the rest of the family, or how this career and move supports or sabotages the mission. As the head, the husband bears a responsibility to which the wife should lovingly submit to and not try and sabotage. In a godly marriage, the wife knows how much her husband wants to please her. She knows he's called to be the first to sacrifice, the first to love. So she shouldn’t manipulate that by her own selfishness. 

The thing is, everyone is called to submit in the tiebreakers. A marriage is a unity and decisions are made together. But the special responsibility of the husband as head isn’t about a moment in a tiebreaker decision. As Robert Wall describes, the head is to continuously “think about the mission, describe it, communicate it, keep it constantly before the group, and develop goals on the basis of it” (Robert Wall with Richard Steele, 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus, 259). This kind of care for the family will nurture mutual submission on all kinds of daily decision-making. And when the big ones come up such as moving for a job, the foundation will be properly laid.  

I do agree with Tucker that there will still be serious conflict in both egalitarian and complementarian marriages, because we are dealing with sinners after all. But I do hope that in both types of marriages, that will be alleviated by our unity in Christ and our mission to consummate that union.

But the gentleman who emailed me is right---we all still have a lot to learn.

 

 

*I've written more about this:

On Headship and Household

Niether Complementarian Nor Egalitarian: A Review

Posted on Wednesday, July 20, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

This is a common teaching on headship as Christians try to work out the practical implications of Eph. 5:21-33. One wise husband who emailed me commented that he and his wife have humbly been trying to work out what this passage means for 36 years now, and he still has a lot to learn:

 

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,  because we are members of his body.  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

 

He points out an interesting comment a husband made in a marriage counseling session with Dr. James Boice (I believe he is quoting from his booklet, How to Be Happy as a Family).  More people may think this way about what headship means than possibly admit it:

 

“I was counseling a couple who were soon to be married, and I asked if they understood what God meant when He said that the wife was to be in subjection to her husband and that the husband was to love his wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. The wife was wise enough to remain silent. But the man blurted out, ‘That means that we are to love each other; but whenever we disagree I am to give her a hug and a kiss, and after that we're to do things my way.’" 

 

Ruth Tucker addresses this way of thinking in her book, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife, quoting well-meaning men who actually apply this right down to differences in opinion of where the married couple will grab their dinner for the night. She then asks, “How do egalitarians work out differences in their marriages? Who is the tiebreaker? When I asked my complementarian colleague about how his headship might look in relationship to the daily routine, I had actually expected something more significant than whether or not to eat at Taco Bell” (49). She then explains the mutuality in an egalitarian marriage when it comes to decision-making:

 

How do egalitarians deal with a tiebreaker situation? Let’s say the husband is offered a transfer with a substantial salary increase; the wife is settled in the neighborhood---near family, schools, and church. But the husband wants the opportunity to climb the career ladder. Or let’s say the situation is reversed, and the wife has an opportunity to climb the ladder to success. Such a life-changing decision should simply be based on mutuality, and no major move should be made until both husband and wife are fully on board. Can this lead to serious conflict? Of course it can, no matter whether the marriage is based on equality or male headship. (49)

 

I disagree with both her complementarian examples and the egalitarian one she offers. If no major move is made until both husband and wife are fully on board, one is already submitting---the one who doesn’t get to move. She is right, that will lead to serious conflict. I would say that the biblical model of marriage, as described in Eph. 5, would call for the husband to give himself first to sacrifice for his wife. As the head in the Christian context of the kingdom of God, he should be the first to sacrifice. But I do have a caveat. Every situation is different. If we are talking about where to eat dinner, husbands submit to your wife and sacrifice for her in that way---unless your wife seems to have no concern about pleasing you ever. If she is never willing to sacrifice and submit her own desires to please you, then you have a problem. That doesn't mean it's time to "rule over her," but it probably means it is time for a conversation about how you are to love one another. You don't demand submission, it is a voluntary gift. Wives, care about where your husband wants to eat too. Don’t take advantage of his being the first to sacrifice. But most of us already know this, right?

 

In a marriage, decisions are made together.

 

When it comes to something more substantial, like uprooting the family for a career, both husband and wife should empathize with one another. I do believe the husband is called to sacrifice first for the wife. But the first priority of that sacrifice for his wife is to consider the effects of their decision under the mission of God he is entrusted to for his family. The point of headship is unity. There is a theological mission attached to being the head of the household, and the husband is to tend to this.  It is eschatological. We are moving toward something---our mission to be summed up in Christ’s household, to be sanctified for his purposes, and to reign with him on the new heavens and the new earth. This eschatological goal shapes the mission of the household. This mission needs to reach the next generation and the ones after that. And so the head needs to ensure that our faith is articulated well, that the members of the household live accordingly, and that it is passed down to the next generation. This is true of the family, and of the household of God, his church. 

 

So there are other factors to consider, such as the condition of their finances, is the spouse’s job unbearable, how much time does each spouse have to spend away from the household to earn a living, how it will affect the wellbeing of the rest of the family, or how this career and move supports or sabotages the mission. As the head, the husband bears a responsibility to which the wife should lovingly submit to and not try and sabotage. In a godly marriage, the wife knows how much her husband wants to please her. She knows he's called to be the first to sacrifice, the first to love. So she shouldn’t manipulate that by her own selfishness. 

 

The thing is, everyone is called to submit in the tiebreakers. A marriage is a unity and decisions are made together. But the special responsibility of the husband as head isn’t about a moment in a tiebreaker decision. As Robert Wall describes, the leader is to continuously “think about the mission, describe it, communicate it, keep it constantly before the group, and develop goals on the basis of it” (Robert Wall with Richard Steele, 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus, 259). This kind of care for the family will nurture mutual submission on all kinds of daily decision-making. And when the big ones come up such as moving for a job, the foundation will be properly laid.  

 

The thing about the tie-breaker argument is that it is over simplifying. Men can exercise their muscle and women can exercise their manipulation, which is precisely why both men and women need to heed the exhortation in Eph. 5. I do agree with Tucker that there will still be serious conflict in both egalitarian and complementarian marriages, because we are dealing with sinners after all. But I do hope that in both types of marriages, that will be alleviated by our unity in Christ and our mission to consummate that union.

 

But the gentleman who emailed me is right---we all still have a lot to learn.

 

 

*I've written more about this:

On Headship and Household

Niether Complementarian Nor Egalitarian: A Review

Posted on Tuesday, July 12, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
This is going to be a different kind of book review. Ruth Tucker’s Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife is different kind of book. It is a page turner autobiography about an educated, independent Christian woman who falls in love with the tall, handsome, charming guy who knew all the right answers at a Christian retreat. She marries him and endures 19 long years of abuse. But as the subtitle explains, it’s also her story of finding hope after domestic abuse. And did I mention her husband was a preacher? 
 
Despite the fact that Tucker’s husband “hurled biblical texts” at her while “hitting and punching and slamming [her] against doors and furniture,” despite his “terror-loaded threats” if she didn’t submit properly “from the kitchen to the bedroom,” despite feeling “trapped and fear[ing] for [her] life, while outwardly disguising bruises with long sleeves and clever excuses,” she doesn’t abandon her Christian faith. No, during this time, Tucker earns her PHD, teaches courses at Grand Rapids School of Bible and Music (as does her husband for six years) and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and even spends some summer weeks teaching at a Bible college in Kenya. She maintains a high view of Scripture and continues in the Christian faith.
 
But there is something Ruth Tucker abandons. And that is what adds another layer to the storytelling in this book. Tucker is now an egalitarian, arguing for mutuality in marriage, church office, and society. She no longer supports the complementarian teaching that “although men and women are created equal in their being and personhood, they are created to complement each other via different roles and responsibilities as manifested in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere.” While celebrating gender distinction, Tucker argues that complementarian teaching is unbiblical and provides fuel for abusive relationships. This argument is woven throughout her testimony of enduring and escaping abuse. 
 
I’ve read the reviews by complementarians in my so-called circles that, while having sympathy for Tucker’s story of abuse, say they cannot give their recommendation of the book, even turning their reviews into corresponding arguments of why Tucker’s egalitarianism is wrong. And that is why this is a different kind of book review. I would like to engage with the complementarian reviews of this book with my own response. I am bothered by how these reviews from within my own circles have not really listened, have not really learned, and have not really engaged with Ruth Tucker.
 
Sure, Tucker does write an argument against complementarianism in her book, and one form of engagement is to respond to that. So I’m not bothered if complementarians want to critique her theological position. I am not an egalitarian. I disagree with Tucker on several points in the book. But I was still challenged and sharpened by it. Rather than writing a review saying that I do not recommend Tucker’s book, I want to urge people to read it---especially pastors. I gained more insight into why women stay in abusive relationships for so long. I learned more about red flags that may indicate an abusive relationship. And I was enlightened by the cold reality of how pointless couples counseling is when one of the spouses is abusive. After reading this book, I am even more convinced that complementarianism and egalitarianism is not as simple as the definitions provided for us. I closed Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife challenged to learn more. Particularly at the end of the book, Tucker poses some tough questions for complementarians. 
 
Victims of abuse need to be heard. We especially need to listen as a church. 
 
So, I was bothered by the reviews that don’t recommend Tucker’s book due to her egalitarian position. One common critique among them is that Tucker’s view of complementarianism is wrong. Complementarianism does not teach abusive headship, it teaches using the model of how Christ leads his church. I think the author would agree that her ex-husband would have been abusive no matter what doctrine he held. But here’s the problem: the “that’s not complementarianism” critique doesn’t have a leg to stand on when some of it’s most well-known proponents are quoted in the book teaching devastating applications of complementarianism. And while their teaching doesn’t advocate abuse ostensibly, it doesn’t protect women who are abused---at all. It exposes them to more abuse. And so it is fuel for an abuser. These are devastating quotes that need to be addressed. We must ask---what is being taught in the name of complementarianism? Are all of its teachings biblical? That is a question I have been asking the leaders in the movement for a while now. 
 
And Tucker’s book is where I see the rubber meeting the road on the over-emphasis of an unbiblical form of authority and submission taught under the label of complementarianism. The defensiveness and denunciations in some of these reviews send the message that there is a greater fear of people reading Tucker’s book and becoming egalitarian than my fear of people reading leading voices in complementarianism and leaving Christianity!
 
Tucker opens her book with a quote from Paige Patterson when he was the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. This was from a session at a CBMW conference in 2000:
 
I had a woman who was in a church that I served, and she was being subject to some abuse, and I told her, I said, “All right, what you want to do is, every evening I want you to get down by your bed just as he goes to sleep, get down by the bed, and when you think he’s just about to sleep, you just pray and ask God to intervene, not out loud, quietly,” but I said, “You just pray there.” And I said, “Get ready because he may get a little more violent, you know, when he discovers this.” And sure enough, he did. She came to church one morning with both eyes black. And she was angry at me and at God and the world, for that matter. And she said, “I hope you’re happy.” And I said, “Yes ma’am, I am.” And I said, I’m sorry about that, but I’m very happy.” (11)
 
Some abuse”? Really? Tucker added after the quote that Rev. Patterson provided the reason why he was happy---this woman’s husband came to church afterward and responded to the invitation at the end of the service to come forward. I could spend three more posts breaking down what’s troubling here, but have to move on. 
 
Bruce Ware, who years ago was a colleague of mine at Trinity, stated the matter even more forcefully at a 2008 conference when he said that  “women victims of domestic violence were often to blame for their own abuse because they were failing to submit to their husband’s authority.” (48)
 
These are just two examples of many from the book. Are complementarians troubled by these teachings? I am! I wouldn’t stand behind that. While I do not embrace egalitarianism, I believe there is much more mutuality in marriage than many complementarians teach. We are told to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ, women to their own husbands, as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22-23), and husbands are to give themselves up in love for their wives, just as Christ loved the Church (v. 25). The type of teaching that the above quotes represent diminishes women, whom the Lord says are to be cherished.
 
While Tucker has this dual aim to argue for egalitarianism in the home, church, and society while raising awareness for domestic abuse through her own story, she focuses most of the book on marriage. It is difficult to accomplish a task of storytelling and teaching theology at the same time. Not everything descriptive is prescriptive. And while there were areas in the book where I wanted to push back on Tucker’s teaching, I realized I am reading a book from a woman who has endured and escaped horrible abuse---a book peppered with quotes from leading complementarians who blame women for their abuse, reduce complementarity to male authority and female submission, send victims back into abusive homes for the sake of submission, teach a distorted view of masculinity and femininity, and reduce women to the role of elevating men. 
 
So here’s my question: why are complementarians so quick to call out an abuse victim’s egalitarianism and yet so absolutely silent about the troubling teaching she quotes from many leading complementarians? This is why Ruth Tucker wants nothing to do with your theology---you refuse to confront the damaging errors within it. And I’d say that is not worthy of the word complementarity.
 
**UPDATE**
 
Bruce Ware has contacted me, upset that the quote Tucker has provided is misleading. It is from a blog article describing a session Ware gave at a "Biblical Manhood and Womanhood" conference in Denton, TX, 2008. The words were the blogger, Kathryn Joyce's, summation. It is fair to point that out. Joyce does provide these two quotes from Ware's talk that are just as disturbing:

"And husbands on their parts, because they're sinners, now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive, which is of course one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged – or, more commonly, to become passive, acquiescent, and simply not asserting the leadership they ought to as men in their homes and in churches."

"He will have to rule, and because he's a sinner, this can happen in one of two ways. It can happen either through ruling that is abusive and oppressive – and of course we all know the horrors of that and the ugliness of that – but here's the other way in which he can respond when his authority is threatened. He can acquiesce. He can become passive. He can give up any responsibility that he thought he had to the leader in the relationship and just say ‘OK dear,' – Whatever you say dear,' – Fine dear' and become a passive husband, because of sin."

I did ask Ware if he would repudiate those statements, as the inference is clearly one that a man's abuse is the result or effect of the woman challenging his authority by not submitting. He denies that is the inference. He also said that men bear full responsibility for the sin of abuse. 

Unfortunately, the link provided on CBMW for the talks is now broken. But I did find another article (there are many) that covered this talk. Here is another one that summarizes more of Ware's argument. 

**Another link has been brought to my attention, from an interview Ware did on Revive Our Hearts, where he basically says the same thing.

 

 

Posted on Tuesday, July 05, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
In this guest post, Dr. Liam Goligher reflects on what we have discovered in this trinitarian debate so far:
 
If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played?
And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? (1Cor. 14.7-8)
 
Since the first blast of the trumpet some weeks ago I have listened carefully, have spoken to participants personally, and have chosen my written words as wisely as I could getting as much help as I can from expert theologians in the field. I want to explain to ordinary people what has been going on: on the one hand you have read and heard a statement of historic Christian teaching of the Trinity---the confession of our church fathers, medieval scholars, and reformers. The doctrine of God upheld by Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Owen, Whitefield, Ryle and Spurgeon. On the other hand you have read the responses of those who are evangelical folks who affirm the words of the creed but reinterpret its meaning. 
 
When I wrote I expected to be a lone voice, as on this topic I have been for some years. But there is something about the nature of truth, when it grips the heart (especially when that truth has biblical warrant and churchly agreement, even though it may be currently unpopular and apparently irrelevant), we cannot but speak.
 
This is a minister's business, to speak up for the gospel and to do so whether it is convenient or otherwise. In this case, we are speaking up for the primary doctrine of the Christian Faith. That was always the main issue. The Blessed and Holy Trinity, God in His Sacred Persons, is the object of our most fervent worship and most heartfelt devotion. We dare not depart from the old truths just because they are inconvenient to our current hot button issues. 
 
What have we discovered in the debate so far? That the opponents of this vital matter are good men? Of course. That they have influential supporters? Yes. But we have also discovered that they have an agenda. In their Trinitarian theology they are attempting to locate authority and submission/subordination in the being and nature of God. They are doing so because they want to draw a clear line from God's essential being and that of human beings (male and female). It is this move towards inserting authority/submission in the nature of God which the church fought hard to counter in the language of the creeds echoed by later confessions.
 
Taken to its logical conclusion, regarding Christ as eternally subordinate to the Father would please Muslims and Mormons in equal measure. It is therefore a matter of enormous importance. Its implications for human relations could not be plainer. If a direct link can be made between (which is highly problematic exegetically and theologically) God in Himself and human relations, it leaves us with two image bearers of God who, strictly speaking (since they both share His image), have both authority and submission in themselves. 
 
Of course, that is not what is being argued: what is being said is that men have authority by nature and women are subordinate by nature, and that eternally. Now this pernicious error flies in the face of biblical evidence. In the economy of marriage, husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and wives are called to submit to their own husbands in the Lord. In the economy of the church, certain, qualified men are called to hold the offices of the church and women are prohibited from holding such offices. Outside of those limits men and women are both "sons" of God and "co-heirs" with Christ; a Mary can teach the church through her Magnificat; an Anna can prophecy of the Messiah; a Samaritan woman can be taught exalted Trinitarian truth; a Mary can sit at Jesus' feet; Martha can be given an exposition of the resurrection; another Mary can be sent to tell the apostles the glad news that the tomb is empty; that Christ is risen; and that He wants them to go to Galilee to meet Him; and in the epistles older women must teach younger women the faith, not to mention the service of Junia and Pricilla to the church. In other words the Bible teaches a proper complementarianism. 
 
This will not go far enough for the thought police, of course, and their suspicions that we have been promoting a "soft complementarianism" will be confirmed. They are wrong, and their abuse of this doctrine of God has been allowed to do dishonor to the glory of Christ and to our Christian sisters long enough. The men who use this teaching as their excuse for throwing their weight around have had their day. 
 
I am a pastor whose calling is to preach the truth; rebuke error; and stand up for the weakest in our churches. Is this feminism? Of course it's not, though they will doubtless claim it is. If men are to be true men they will nourish and nurture the women in our lives and churches. We will want to make them great for God. 
 
In my national church we are at the heart of resisting the impulse to seek women's ordination because we believe there is enough biblical warrant against it. We don't need to pervert the doctrine of God (and in so doing the doctrine of man made in His image) in order to defend ourselves. We will stand for truth whatever the cost to friendships and believe that, whether now or long into the future, Christ will be the friend to truth. 
 
Let there be no doubt of this: what is at stake is the honor of Christ and the good of His body. The call to the powerful is to act boldly on behalf of the weak. To be a man is to stand up for the women in our church who are being beaten over the head with this evil nonsense. If we stand by and say nothing we will never enjoy Christ's smile upon our work and all the conferences in the world will not bring life and healing to our churches. 
 
This debate, public as it has been, is a God given moment for reflection and repentance. It is to me one of the most encouraging and hopeful signs that younger scholars and ministers are rediscovering the exegetical tools of the early church and revisiting the very texts that laid the foundations of our Trinitarian and Christological theology. To bring these truths out of the classroom and study onto our pulpits and into our people's hearts and minds will bring true renewal to the church, will offer the best resistance to error, and will be the most precious medicine for people's souls.
 

Dr. Liam Goligher is Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church. He is the author of A Window on Tomorrow (Christian Focus, 1994), The Fellowship of the King (Carlisle, 2003), The Jesus Gospel (Milton Keynes, 2006), and Joseph—The Hidden Hand of God (Fearn, 2008).  Liam and his wife Christine have five adult children (Louise, Ruth, David, Sarah, Andrew) and nine grandchildren.

 

Posted on Tuesday, July 05, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
A wonderful outcome of this ongoing Trinity debate is that more Christians are interested in learning about the doctrine of God.  We have shared an annotated list of resources that Mark Jones has put together, dividing between introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels of learning. 
 
In addition to that, you can listen to interviews on the topic in your car on the way to whatever it is that you regularly do. Place for Truth has kicked off an engaging introductory series on the doctrine of God on their podcast Theology on the Go. Take a listen here to the first interview Dr. Jonathan Master gives of the series with Dr. James Dolezal (a Baptist!) on the topic of divine simplicity. It’s twelve minutes worth your time even if you aren’t in the car. And it will add another good book to your list.
 
Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
In my last article, I pleaded that complementarian men should respond to women with a listening ear and a resolve to better teach what headship actually means and what it does not mean. They should be reaching out to abused women, whose husbands and churches hide under the banner of headship and complementarianism, and call out the abuse and false teaching loud and clear. They should be working to help church leaders to recognize abuse and provide godly counsel and resources for those abused.
 
Perhaps if we hear from some of the women who have been through such abuse, we can improve in this area. This is a guest post from an anonymous author that I am sharing to hopefully raise awareness leading to positive change.
 
Please understand that I am not saying that the distinctive view of male-female relations which CBMW promotes inevitably leads to abuse. And I’ve said before that they have also published helpful teaching. My point is that when you make authority/submission of Father to Son the distinction between the two in eternity (ex., Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 251) and make that the paradigm for male-female relations you risk developing a position where the Christological/crucicentric pattern of the husband-wife relationship is relativized or even sidelined. And you may well end up with a monochrome understanding of marriage which misses the need for the husband to sacrifice for the wife, as well as all of those beautiful, playful dimensions of biblical love and marriage as we find, for example, in the Song of Songs.  All of these things must be part of anything claiming the name of biblical complementarianism. The current reductionism, by way of contrast, may not cause but certainly enables the kind of abuse described here. It is a pity that, in the rush to defend the barricades, so many seem to have lost sight of the human side of this Trinitarian problem.
 
Listening to Abused Women
 
When I first met my husband-to-be, it was like a dream come true. We met on a missions trip. He was kind, considerate, actively serving in the church, spiritually mature, and handsome, too. Our friendship grew quickly and within months we were meeting with the elders to get their blessing on our engagement, which they gladly gave. My parents even consulted with mutual friends as to his character as a Christian, and he passed with flying colors. But to top that, he confided to me that he received a prophetic word from God promising him a special blessing on this marriage. Who could resist that? I was in a different place theologically at the time, so I did not see extra-scriptural revelation as a problem. Rather I felt humbled and honored to be the person whom God choose to fulfill His promise to my future husband. This all but guaranteed to my mind that we would have a happy marriage.
 
I would not characterize the marriage as being difficult initially. Just the normal friction that happens between two normal people. I was not perfect, but I believed that everything would always work out because God brought us together. I wanted to be a good wife, so I was determined not to usurp my husband's authority. I deferred to him in just about everything. I trusted that if he was wrong, God would correct him in His time. My job was to be obedient. I never teased him or joked about him. That behavior was too disrespectful. But over time, it became clear that I would never live up to his expectations. I think only perfection would have only satisfied him, not a normal, fallible human being. Even when the children disappointed or embarrassed him, it was my fault because I was not doing enough to raise them properly.
 
After more than a decade of marriage, my husband began slowly to withdraw emotionally. First it was little things like deliberately not holding my hand and failing to open doors for me. As he grew colder, I asked what was wrong. He said it was his problem and not mine. Then one evening, he told me he no longer loved me. He never really loved me and had obviously misinterpreted the prophecy. It was more than my needing to improve. I was wrong. He said that he had tried all these years to make things work. He even said he believed that he loved me as Christ loved the church to which I blindly agreed. I asked if we could go to counseling, but he said most counselors would encourage us to divorce. I was relieved that he wasn't talking about divorce, but it shut the door on any help I could possibly get. 
 
The family continued to function normally at least on the outside. Not even the children suspected because we hid it from them. We hid it from our friends. I hid it from my family. I did not ask for prayer because it would be a sign of disrespect towards him, and the Bible told me that he could be won without a word. I was also afraid of what he would he do if people found out. Would it drive him further away or to divorce? So I suffered in silence and prayed with all my might that God would save the marriage. But things got even worse.
 
He barely showed me any physical affection but was quick to hug the wives and daughters of our friends. He praised others. I got back-handed compliments. I tried to say, as gently as I could, that it wounded me when I saw him show affection to our friends. His response was to tell me to stop trying to control him. From then on I just kept silent as the contempt grew. He would work late, stay up late, and sleep on the couch. I retreated to the bedroom in the evenings because conversation stopped between us unless necessary. I still begged God for help and cried myself to sleep night after night. I lost weight and could hardly eat. There were brief moments when I would get a rare smile or even a kiss on the cheek. This gave me hope, but these signs were becoming fewer and fewer to the point of being nonexistent. I felt like a mistreated family dog who did not know whether it was going to get a kick or a pat on the head. But like the loyal dog, I was so starved for affection that I would endure the “kicks” in the hope that my husband would finally love me. The word “abuse” never even crossed my mind at that time, but this was what was going on all along – emotional abuse. 
 
After what seemed like ages, the blow fell when my husband said we should separate, telling me to move out and leave the children with him. I was crushed. I refused his offer and finally broke my silence. Friends and family were stunned because we seemed like the perfect Christian family. They talked to him and encouraged us to fight for the marriage. I was more than willing to do this. But he said staying married to me would be a slow emotional death, and he needed to be free to be himself. If I would not go, he would move out even though several Christian men confronted him on multiple occasions. I still cry when I remember how devastated our children were when he broke the news that he was leaving. He lied and said he just needed time away to think and pray. They weren't fooled. Not one bit. At first, I thought their tears would move him to reconsider. But when the tears finally stopped, he suggested we all go out for pizza. Perhaps he wanted to celebrate having crossed that hurdle. We still held hands as a family while he thanked God for our food. He was all smiles. The rest of us were dying inside. What a travesty and total lack of empathy. 
 
Eventually the truth came to light. He had found my replacement and felt completely justified in pursuing her. She was God's will. I was not. The remaining time until the divorce was finalized was no better even though he was gone. The intimidation was played out in the courts rather than in person. Even after the divorce, there were other avenues to get back at me through the children such as refusing to give permission for health care and trying to minimize child support.
 
There may be some readers who immediately recognize the warning signs that I completely missed. There may be other readers who are thinking, “He didn't hit her, so it really wasn't abuse.” or  “Everyone has problems. She's over-dramatizing this to get sympathy.” or “It takes two to tango. Obviously this is just her side. Maybe she did something to provoke him.” For the skeptics, let me give you a brief lesson on emotional abuse.
 
Abuse is primarily about power and control. An abuser feels entitled to wield power over others. He is so special that the rules don't apply to him. He is so special that it is “normal” for others to be at his disposal. So he feels justified in using whatever is necessary to gain the control that feeds his sense of self-importance. This on-going pattern of behavior can include physical violence but not always. In my case, humiliation and intimidation were enough to keep me cowering. But prior to this overt behavior, I had also undergone years of “gas-lighting.” This term is taken from the old movie “Gas Light” where the heroine's husband attempts to drive her crazy. While my ex-husband did not attack my sanity, he subverted my sense of reality. He was an expert at manipulation. He was a like a chameleon who could turn into the character admired by the person he wanted to charm. I just assumed this was proof that we were meant to be together. He did the same for the other woman by changing his taste in music among other things to suit her. He won me over by telling me all the woes from his past. But now that he had me as his wife, I was the only person who could appreciate him for who he really was. When it came to any disagreement, he always managed to convince me that he was right and I was wrong. Even God thought he was special by promising him an extra blessing on his marriage. If I failed, then I must deserve his mistreatment for not only failing him but failing God, too. There were times when I would beg his forgiveness just in case I had offended him in some way. He told me he forgave, but they were just words. There was no grace, only a growing record of my faults that were held over my head. The reason why I agreed that he loved me as Christ loved the church, while he said he never really loved me in the same breath, was the result of being brainwashed to the point where he determined my reality. If you don't believe me, please read these two posts:
 
 
I could give you more examples from my story for every trait mentioned in these posts and not one of them requires raising even so much as a finger against the victim.
 
To put it another way, what I experienced was no different from the emotional bullying that is far too common today. The bully does not need to punch his victim. Threats, name-calling, and intimidation via social media are enough to drive victims to the point of suicide. Would any right-minded person go to grieving parents and tell them their child was not abused because the bully never hit her? Would you tell them that she should have had a little more courage and stood up for herself? Would you tell them that it takes two to tango and maybe she provoked the bullying? Absolutely not! 
 
Yet I have heard stories of women who were told to go back and submit no matter what their husbands did, while still maintaining a reverential attitude toward their abusers. There may have been some exceptions if there was a pattern of violence, but never permanent freedom from the abuser. And what makes a pattern?  Once? Twice? How much was too much? They were told to stop being so emotional and exaggerating their situations especially if there weren't any bruises as evidence. They were told that God was for their marriages so they needed to pray harder. And wasn't she as much of a sinner as her abusive husband? If she deserved Hell, wasn't she getting better than she deserved? I was told that I didn't tell my husband I loved him enough. This is telling me I needed to give a narcissist what he wanted, which is like trying to fill a bottomless pit. This was also like a punch in the stomach from someone I trusted, so I felt betrayed all over again. 
 
I'm probably not the first abuse survivor to ask “Does anyone really care about abused Christian women? Then why won't you listen to us? Is it because you believe I am just as worthless as my husband thinks I am?” We're not asking the world. We are asking the church. And I think it's time we are given some answers.
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I am pleased to share another guest post by Liam Goligher, regarding all of the uproar over the word heresy:
 
Since my first posts on the reinvention of Trinitarian theology in the church I have had the opportunity to have personal discussion with two of the main players in the debate, Drs. Ware and Grudem. Both conversations were pleasant and helpful in clarifying our different positions. Dr. Grudem particularly agreed that public debate over publicly expressed positions was entirely acceptable. Publicly expressed error must be addressed publicly. Where they expressed concern was in my suggestion of heterodoxy. For me the primary consideration in this debate has been the honor and glory of God; it was that which drove me to write as I did. On the other hand I would also want to be sensitive to my duty to brothers in Christ not to dishonor them unjustly in any way. Knowing the institutions in which my brothers work they have not infringed any doctrinal commitments they have undertaken. I don’t want to be seen to be saying what I am not saying about Drs. Ware and Grudem and I can’t speak for their respective ecclesiastical settings, but again, the honor of God is at stake. 
 
Part of the problem has been that in using the word ‘heresy’ (which I didn’t but do now) we have been talking past each other. Heresy is not a word to be used carelessly and hurled indiscriminately at anyone who dares to disagree with us. In confessional bodies, such as Episcopal, Reformed, Presbyterian or Reformed Baptist churches, heresy is a formal charge of preaching or teaching error. In such churches, confessional subscription carries more weight than in broadly evangelical churches or general Baptist churches. To teach something that strikes at the heart of the creeds and confessions of the church makes one, at least formally speaking, guilty of teaching heresy. It doesn’t declare one an unbeliever, nor does it immediately disqualify one from teaching. Church courts exist to adjudicate in such matters. Teachers in the church are justly held to a higher standard of orthodoxy (especially Trinitarian orthodoxy) because of the trust placed in them and their impact of the laypersons that read or hear their views expressed. While I cannot speak for whether or not Ware or Grudem’s views place them outside of the pale of their ecclesiastical confessions, I do believe their teaching contradicts the Nicene Creed as well as the major Reformed confessions. A couple of implications follow, given my role as a Presbyterian minister of the gospel. I have the responsibility to make sure that my parishioners are aware of the problematic nature of this teaching, since these views are widely published. I also have the responsibility to make sure that men who hold these views are not ordained within my denomination. Thus, to address the viability of this teaching over against the creeds and confessions of the Reformed churches is not to meddle in someone else’s business but to address issues of practical pastoral import.
 
Another issue in our debate where we are talking past each other relates to Biblicism. There is a recognizable shift in some quarters of the evangelical world to an atomized reading of Scripture cut off from the church’s tradition of exegesis and biblical interpretation. The Creeds are dismissed without due regard to the very thorough exegetical work done by the fathers and reformers. This movement is found in general evangelicalism and in movements emanating from Sydney and London. Treating the bible as if it landed on my doorstep this morning, instead of reading it in fellowship with Christ’s church is a failure to recognize the communion of the saints and is to breach the command of the apostle concerning the ‘unity of the faith.’ It was in the pursuit of this unity that the church sought early on to affirm its faith in God as Trinity. The reformation did not involve eschewing tradition, but refining the relationship of Scripture to that tradition. Sola scriptura is not solo or nuda Scriptura. Bannerman in his magisterial work on the church clearly defends the role of doctrinal standards in evaluating doctrine and identifying error. 
 
Here is the state of play thus far. There are, as I wrote in my first post, those who are revisiting and revising the creedal and confessional affirmation of our Trinitarian faith. Whether they are promoting a popular agenda, engaging in academic speculation, or formulating a new Trinitarian model they are nonetheless moving from orthodoxy. Let me be specific:
There is no argument generally about how God relates to us in the economy of redemption (how He chooses to reveal Himself to and relate to His creatures in the created order). The issue remains the ad intra being of God; God as He is in Himself. There are attempts to argue univocally from our created order and understanding back into the being of God. For example, there is an attempt to project something akin to male/female relations back into the relation of Father and Son. The incomprehensibility of God should warn us off from speaking univocally from our experience back into the being of God. Early Christian theologians spent time addressing the nature of divine self-revelation and of corresponding theological language to testify of him before addressing the nature of the triune life (see, e.g., Gregory of Nazianzus’s famous theological orations).
 
There is openly expressed dissatisfaction with the language of ‘only begotten’ or of ‘eternal generation’.  My concern is not with those who use subordination language in any form (though there are questions to be raised there as well), but most significantly with those, specifically, who are employing it while denying key tentposts of Nicene Trinitarian theology. Everyone affirms the deity of the Son (that he is homoousios with the Father), but it is noteworthy to highlight that the second paragraph of the Nicene Creed calls for belief in much more and some significant figures seem to deny other key elements. For some doing so, the language of “Father and Son” refers to a hierarchical relationship akin to a Father and son in a patriarchal setting. Intrinsic to the Godhead is Authority and submission (albeit loving submission). Yet what do the Creeds and the Orthodox Reformed Confessions teach? They confess One God and use the relational language of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They teach that in the eternal life of the Godhead there is perfect life and perfect fellowship. The Father eternally communicates His life to the Son; the Son has ‘life in Himself;’ is His Word; His radiance; His image; and Father and Son eternally communicate this life to the Spirit who proceeds from their mutual love and eternal fellowship. The Creed uses four clauses to stress this point: 
 
‘I believe…in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.”
 
The category of "relation" is used by Christian theologians--not only because that's what the names "Father" and "Son" appear to describe, but because this is the (only) way of describing a real distinction without subverting the numerical unity of God's being and operation. This also is why one can't have "consubstantial with the Father" without "begotten not made." Eternal generation describes the mode of being in which one divine being is shared by two persons. Any other scenario divides the divine being, an impossibility given divine simplicity (another foundational commitment of pro-Nicene theologians).
 
There is a failure to grasp what Nicene Christians mean when they say that God’s being and operations are ‘indivisible’ or ‘inseparable.’ They seem to use the word ‘deity’ in a generic sense to refer to a ‘secondary substance’ – something to be shared out by the members of the Trinity and divided among them. Yet the Creed affirms we believe in ‘one God;’ the Larger Catechism says that there is ‘but only one’ God (WLC 8, 11), numerically one being, numerically one operation, shared by three persons, three agents. This immediately challenges those who argue for three wills or three centers of consciousness in the One being of God. 
 
Pro-Nicene Trinitarianism and Reformed Orthodoxy require us to confess: the analogical nature of theological language, divine simplicity as classically articulated by Gregory Nazianzus and others, the one divine will, the inseparable operations of the triune God, and the eternal generation of the Son. To reject or recast these truths is to move out of Christian orthodoxy into heresy. This is where the chips fall. The church has given us words to say so that we can then be silent before the mystery. 
 
While there will always be room for growth in our knowledge of the triune God and, therefore, in principle, there will always be room for doctrinal development, true doctrinal development always occurs within the parameters of the truths summarized in the church’s creeds and confessions. This, as I understand it, is how a doctrine like the pactum salutis (as treated by, e.g. Owen) could be described: a deeper understanding of the internal relations of God with respect to the plan of salvation, but one that seeks to honor the Nicene settlement. Just as the pactum salutis is a development internal to the Nicene  doctrinal exposition, so Calvin’s teaching on autotheos is within that faith (and not outside it or a replacement for it).These matters then go to the heart of our Christian faith; they are matters of life and death; the good of God’s church, the honor of God’s Christ and the glory of God’s Name are at stake. These matters should be of utmost importance to those who say they love the gospel.
 

Dr. Liam Goligher is Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church. He is the author of A Window on Tomorrow (Christian Focus, 1994), The Fellowship of the King (Carlisle, 2003), The Jesus Gospel (Milton Keynes, 2006), and Joseph—The Hidden Hand of God (Fearn, 2008).  Liam and his wife Christine have five adult children (Louise, Ruth, David, Sarah, Andrew) and nine grandchildren.

 

Posted on Thursday, June 23, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
We’ve been betrayed. This is something that has disturbed me, as well as a handful of other women writers, for a while now. We’ve tried to respectfully engage, and we have been ignored. Completely. So I put a few rocks in my snowballs and threw them out, hoping the sting would provoke some men to wake up and say something. Some have. That’s why I was so pleased to share Liam Goligher’s guest post. All of a sudden people are listening. And asking questions.  
 
CBMW in particular owes a lot of women an apology. They haven't acknowledged one woman* who has critiqued their fringe teaching and asked for them to think of its practical consequences. And they wouldn't answer my one reasonable question about their stance on Nicene Trinitarian confessions. It has made some wonder whether they are even interested in listening to women. This is not complementarity according to how I thought of the definition of the word. It seems that “complementarity” has been reduced to nothing more than authority and submission, one inherent in men, the other in women. 
 
Women have been betrayed by the packaging and mass selling of hyper-authoritative teaching under the guise of complementarity. Men who know better are just helping to perpetuate it. And women who know better are also silent. Why is that?
 
Are there just some things we are not allowed to say or question? It seems the more friends you make in these parachurch organizations, the trickier it gets. The unspoken notion is that if you want to build or keep your platform, if you want to write and sell books, then you need to know your place. You also need to know when to be quiet. And that silence is heard and received on the Internet as approval or indifference.  
 
But apparently it is okay to teach in opposition to historic Nicene faith regarding EFS and eternal generation. You can even teach about hair length. You can go on and on about being micro-managed by your husband right down to the number of soap bubbles you missed on his dishes. And you can write all kinds of applications of about how women should relate to the postman, whether she should strength train, or if it's feminine to compete in Mixed Martial Arts.
 
We have been betrayed---betrayed by the gospel-centered, Christian industrial complex. These last couple of weeks we have focused on theology proper, as Trinitarian orthodoxy is a first order issue. Interestingly though, and as Liam has alluded to in his very first post, the guys still swinging at the fences on ESS/ESF/ERAS are the ones with the gender agenda. Their teaching is so intertwined with it. And it’s taught under the banner of “The Beauty of Complementarity.”
 
So here we are now. CBMW has made no statement affirming Nicene Trinitarianism. They’ve made no retractions of the teaching of those who have taught ESS/ESF/ERAS under their brand. They have made no retractions, although I have personally asked them to, of troubling teachings such as Sanctified Testosterone or Soap Bubble Submission. Has anything changed in the last two weeks? Will there be change? And if so, will it be driven by a love for truth, or simply because they’ve been called out in public over issues they have known about for years?
 
Women have been betrayed because we have read their works with a heart to learn more about living in a complementary relationship with our husbands, church officers, and other men in our lives. We see that both women and men distinctively reflect the image of God. We wanted to live biblically. But trusted names have endorsed troubling teaching that isn’t biblical. While there has been helpful teaching that has come from CBMW, other teaching reduces women to ontologically subordinate roles. And some husbands have even used this kind of teaching to fuel abuse in their relationships. I get emails from women who have been in these relationships, thanking me for speaking out. Some hate complementarian teaching now because they were never heard.
 
I don’t see how CBMW can move forward from this in a healthy way without cleaning house and publicly apologizing to those it has misled. How can CBMW speak to a culture with “widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity” (from the first rationale in the Danvers Statement) when there is diverse teaching on both first order doctrine and complementary differences within their own council? And why should women be told to learn about biblical womanhood from men who base their teaching on gender and relationship on an unorthodox view of the Trinity? Furthermore, I know there are men in CBMW who do not agree with this teaching. Why are you quiet?  To quote Dr. King: "In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
 
Why do I get emails from a few, privately encouraging me to speak out while they remain publicly silent? Is it complementarian to encourage a woman to take the hits? Is it?
 
Complementarian men should respond to women with a listening ear and a resolve to better teach what headship actually means and what it does not mean. They should be reaching out to abused women, whose husbands and churches hide under the banner of headship and complementarianism, and call out the abuse and false teaching loud and clear. They should be working to help church leaders to recognize abuse and provide godly counsel and resources for those abused. And if they truly believe in complementarity, they above all should want to invest in women with solid teaching, since they know their value to the church.
 
But instead, when women like me plead for change, we are accused of being feminists or egalitarians or ‘thin complementarians.’ We are blacklisted and ignored. We are treated like women who won’t fall in line. Is that the beauty of complementarity?
 
 
 
*Here are some other articles written by women on this issue: