Calvin on Men as Heads in General

Recently I got in an online discussion about patriarchy. I was told that “Patriarchy is NOT the historic teaching of the church.”  Whether this is right or wrong depends to a large degree on the definition of patriarchy. In the discussion patriarchy was defined as women submitting to men in general. It was assumed that wives should submit to husbands and that women could not be pastors. But men do not have a headship over women in general. By the logic put forth in other discussions, if this was the case, we would find men ordering women around everywhere they went.

There are several issue at play here. But in this post I simply want to quote John Calvin who clearly does assert that men are heads of women in general. And I doubt this led to the men in Geneva ordering all the women around.  This quote comes from a sermon on I Corinthians 11:4-10.

Now St. Paul is not speaking here of individuals, or of particular households. Rather he has divided the human race into two parts, as was indicated in the previous sermon. So there is the male, and the female. I say this, because even though a man may not be married, he still has this privilege of nature: he is a head. Of whom? Of women, because we are not merely to examine one house, but the order that God has established in the world. In the case of a widow, or of a young woman who has yet to marry, the subjection of which St. Paul is speaking still pertains to them. Why? Because it applies to the entire feminine sex…From this we see the stupidity of some who have expounded this text of St. Paul as if it referred only to married women. For, as I have already indicated, he is not dealing with each individual in particular, but with the general order.

You may disagree with Calvin. I do not. However, that is not the point. The point is a historical one. Calvin clearly did hold to the general submission of women to men. He did not restrict it to wives and husbands only. He says the same thing in his commentary on this passage.

Does this make women less than men? Are they not also made in the image of God? Does Christ relate to men in the same way as women? See this blog post where Calvin affirms that women are made in the image of God and salvation is fully their’s in the same way it belongs to men. In Christ, we are equal and all are made in the image of God. But “in this passing life” [Calvin’s term] there is a need for order. And God created men to rule.

 

Further Thoughts on Colossians 2:20-23

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (Col 2:16-23). ESV

This passage could be referring to Jewish OT law, although the phrase “human precepts” in Colossians 2:22 would seem to contradict this. But even if it is referring to OT law, my point [from this blog post] is not weakened, but strengthened. If OT laws are useless in fighting against the flesh, how much more useless are non-biblical food laws?

Men and women love to believe that doing hard things to their bodies will make them more holy. It is a constant temptation. If I exercise, eat right, take these supplements, don’t do this, and do do that I will not just be healthy, I will be more righteous. The words used in Colossians 2:23 indicate a hard, severe approach to the body. Again arguing from the greater to the lesser, if whipping oneself and starving oneself will not help with the indulgence of the flesh then how will abstaining from soda or cigarettes?

Paul is not saying we cannot abstain from certain foods. He is just saying abstaining will not make you more righteous. Many will agree with this in theory. But in practice food restrictions or the idea that eating a certain way is healthier easily becomes a way of looking down on other people. We make a choice for our family and it quickly becomes the right choice for every family.

The last phrase of Colossians 2:23 is especially strong. These things, despite the appearance of holiness, wisdom, and self-control are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. They are ways of looking holy, but not actually being holy.

We all like to look wise and holy. Food restrictions help us keep up appearances. But they are of no value against sin: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, covetousness, lying, anger, malice, blasphemy, and filthy language (Colossians 3:5-9).

So make the food choices you think are best, but don’t turn them into signs of holiness. And make sure you spend a lot more time fighting lust, anger, bitterness, pride, and covetousness than you do fighting your waistline.

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S&S Podcast 2016.22~Parenting by Faith II

 

Parenting 2

In this podcast I look at four signs we are parenting by faith: the centrality of God’s Word, prayer, the child’s character, and of directing our child’s faith to God and not to ourselves.

Vocation as Service

Car Mechanic

Recently I took my Suburban into the local auto shop. The owner was great. After I paid for the work, we sat and talked about old cars and the snow and sons. It was fun. He was in no hurry. My car has run great every time I have taken it to him. I am not sure how that gentleman views his work, but from my end he is a servant. He is not interested in making as much money as possible. He does not push you out the door. He is careful with vehicles and kind to his customers. He has a job to do and he does that job well. It got me thinking, why do we work? What is a job for? There are three common reasons why people get a job.

We Get a Job to Make Money

Probably the most common reason for going to work is to earn money. Why do you work hard in college? So you can get a degree. Why do you get a degree? So you can get a job. Why do you get a job? So you can make money. There is no greater idol in America than money. Naturally, it tops the list of why people work. They want to earn. Now of course, money is part of the reason we work. But if money is the engine that drives our work then we are greedy. If the goal of our work is a paycheck then it makes our work finally about us, not God or our neighbor.

We Get a Job for Self-Fulfillment

Another popular option for why we work is self-fulfillment. We work to fill some hole in our souls. Earlier generations did not think this way so much. But we do. We believe that if we find the perfect job we will come home each day with a deep sense of satisfaction. Again there is some truth here. We are all made in the image of God. God works. Therefore work makes us more human. Dignity is bestowed when we labor. A man who cannot work has lost a part of himself. But self-fulfillment should never be our primary goal in our work. When it is work becomes a way of getting what we need instead of serving others. Continue reading

True Peace is a By-Product of Justice

I am going to put quotes on my  blog from Charles and Demy’s book War, Peace, and Christianity from time to time. I found the book helpful in giving some of the basics of just war thinking and how it is different from pacifism and war hawks.  In this quote they lay out the idea, which is repeated throughout the book, that the aim of just war thinking is a a peace that comes from justly/righteously ordered human relationships. There can be a unjust peace and a just war. All punctuation and formatting is their’s except brackets.

Just-war thinking is not concerned first and foremost with military tactics and strategy. Nor does it serve as justification for any or all military conflict. Rather, it is an approach to statecraft that view peace as not only possibly but morally obligatory as a by-product of justly ordered human relationships. Peace, in this light, is not to be understood merely as the absence of conflict; it is rather the fruit or consequence-the by-product-of a justly ordered society. At its best, the just war tradition has worked to forge moral and political links between the limited use of armed force and the pursuit of peace, security, justice, and freedom. This linkage rests on a foundational assumption: that morality and politics “do not exist in hermetically sealed compartments of life. Rather, the tradition insists that there is one indivisible human universe of thought and action, a universe that is…inescapably moral and inescapably political.” [Citing George Wiegel]

The just-war position, then, is an account of ordering society in a manner that “places politics within an ethically shaped framework” and commits its citizens to debates “whenever and wherever a resort to force is contemplated.” [Citing Jean Elshtain] As such, just-war moral reasoning can be formulated according to basic assumptions about human nature that guide our social and political arrangements. Just war reasoning

  • promotes skepticism and queasiness about the use and abuse of power while not opting out of political reality altogether in favor of utopian fantasies,
  • requires action and judgment in world of limits, estrangement, and partial justice,
  • fosters recognition of the provisional nature of all political arrangements,
  • advances respect for other peoples and nations, in terms of both autonomy and accountability,
  • acknowledges the necessity of self-defense and intervention against unjust aggression and gross oppression while refusing to legitimize imperialistic crusades and empire building.

A Presumption Against Injustice, Not War

D-Day

One of the key insights from Charles and Demy’s book is the shift in just-war thinking since World War II. The just war tradition used to proceed on a presumption against injustice. When injustice occurred coercive force could be used to correct that injustice. The use of coercive force would not only be just, but a necessary act of love. We all understand this in domestic situations. If a man steals another man’s car an injustice has occurred. Force could be used to correct that injustice. To allow the thief to go free for the sake of peace is morally repugnant.

But since WWII there has been a move or rather a subversion of just-war thinking where now the presumption is not against injustice, but against force, violence, and war itself. The authors spend quite a bit of time addressing this shift. They do not see it has  good one. It is not in keeping with just-war tradition and most importantly sides with the oppressor and leaves the weak trodden underfoot. Here are a few quotes from early in their book which address this shift.

Thus already in 1960, Roman Catholic theologian John Courtney Murray could write that the use of force was no longer considered a moral means for redress of violated legal rights. The justness of the cause, he worried, has become “irrelevant, ” and [the words in quote marks are from Murray. Bold mine]

“There simply is no longer a right of self-redress; no individual state may presume to take even the cause of justice into its own hands. Whatever the grievance of the state may be, and however objectionable it may find the status quo, warfare undertaken on the sovereign decision of the national state is an immoral means of settling the grievance and for altering existing conditions.” [End Murray quote]

What Murray conceded is applicable to the present day. There exists today-perhaps less so among laypersons but overwhelmingly so in academic circles and in many religious circles-a presumption against war and force in general rather than a presumption against injustice. 

After citing numerous sources that agree with this shift, including the 1983 statement by the U.S. Catholic Bishops The Challenge of Peace, Charles and Demy say this

The authors assume that peace is the starting point for thinking about justice and that force cannot be a moral entity…the just-war tradition, however, proceeds on a different assumption. Without justice, peace itself can be illegitimate. Again, in the words of Aquinas, “peace is not a virtue, but the fruit of virtue.” The animating spirit of just-war thinking, properly understood, is that “social charity comes to the aid of the oppressed.” [Citing Paul Ramsey] Therefore, if we categorically rule out the possibility of war or coercive force, we then categorically rule out intervention, which may on occasion be an requirement of love rightly construed. The just-war tradition, hence, strongly qualifies “peace” by acknowledging that if this “peace” is not justly ordered, it may well be illegitimate, even oppressive…As thinkers such as Aquinas and Suarez argue, those who wage war in just manner are not opposed to peace, unless, of course, it is an evil peace.

The authors of these sundry statements [denominational papers against war] mistakenly assume that the just-war tradition begins with a presumption against war; however, this reveals a basic misunderstanding of the tradition.  In its moral justification, the classic just-war position issues out of a presumption against injustice and evil…The just-war position proceeds on the assumption that coercive force per se is not evil and that its application depends on the moral character of those employing it. Correlatively, it understands that there are occasions arising from gross injustice in which, reluctantly, we may need to apply coercive force, even if this means going to war, for the protection and preservation of a third party.