Gender is a Cage

Prison Bars

This is a repost of an article I wrote in 2015.

George Gilder wrote the following paragraphs in 1986.

To the sexual liberal, gender is a cage. Behind cruel bars of custom and tradition, men and women for centuries have looked longingly across forbidden spaces at one another and yearned to be free of sexual roles. The men dream of nurturing and consoling; the women want to be tough and child free. Today it is widely believed that the dream of escape can come at last.

This belief leads to a program of mixing the sexes in every possible way, at every stage of life. In nurseries and schools, in athletics and home economics, in sex education and social life, the sexes are thrown together in the continuing effort to create a unisex society. But the results are rarely as expected, and the policies are mostly founded on confusion.

Some of the confusions arise in the schools, where the androgynous agenda has made the greatest apparent headway and its effects can best be studied. It turns out what seems elemental to many expert educationists is actually bizarre from the long perspective of history and anthropology.

Until recent years, for example, most American parochial schools have kept strict sexual segregation. The boys and girls joined chiefly on ceremonial occasions-assemblies and graduations. Even the playground was divided into male and female territories. The restrictions were lifted only during carefully supervised dances, when young couples made their way chastely around the floor of the gym under the watchful eyes of nuns. Any unseemly body contact brought a swift reprimand: “Leave six inches for the Holy Ghost.”

There is no room for the Holy Ghost any longer at most of our schools. The bodies and minds rub together from kindergarten to graduate study. The result is perfectly predictable. Sexual activity occurs at an increasingly younger age. In communities where the family cannot  impose discipline, illegitimate children are common. Classrooms become an intensely sexual arena, where girls and boys perform for the attention of the other sex and where unintellectual males quickly come to view schoolbooks as a menace to manhood.

He closes the chapter with these words: Continue reading

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.

 

John Calvin on the Image of God in Men and Women

Man and WomanOne the advantages of reading those from the past is you realize that the question you are asking is not new and has been answered before. You may disagree with answer, but at least  you are kept from the proud idea that you alone or your generation alone has asked the question. For example, how can Christ be Savior of both men and women and yet Paul says in I Corinthians 11:3 that Christ is the head of man? Here John Calvin’s answer to that question. Brackets are mine.

There you have what we need to observe concerning St. Paul’s statement here, that the head of man is Jesus Christ. He is indeed the head of both men and women, as I have set forth. It is through him that we are joined with each other and united to God so as to be recognized and avowed as his children, and to have our refuge in him with complete confidence. Yet, be that as it may, as regards policy and order belonging to the present life, and without which men would be as dumb animals, Jesus Christ exercises the office of head over men. And let us observe that our Lord Jesus Christ thus affords us a double blessing: namely the eternal salvation of our souls [which applies to men and women equally], and the blessing  of order for this passing life [in which Christ is head of men and men are head of women]. Both of these things are quite useful, once one understands.

Calvin sees two levels at which Christ is working. First, Christ and the salvation he offers, as well as the benefits of that salvation are offered to and given to men and women equally. Men are not more saved than women. They are not closer to  Christ than women. We are all God’s children. But in this life order is required. Order demands hierarchy. This hierarchy is put in place by Jesus to guide us through this life with order and decency. Therefore men are the head and rulers in “this passing life.” Calvin states this another way in the next sermon on I Corinthians 11:4.  Continue reading

Book Review: Jesus, Justice & Gender Roles by Kathy Keller

Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in MinistryJesus, Justice, and Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in Ministry by Kathy Keller

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I knew I would disagree with Mrs. Keller before I started. However, I do not automatically give those I disagree with low ratings. If a person makes a concerted effort to address differing viewpoints, etc. I will give a higher rating to them despite my disagreements. I also realize this is a booklet and not a full length treatment of the topic. But this book does more harm than good by running with too many unproven assumptions to make sweeping generalizations about men, women, and the church. This is easy to do in a booklet of this size. But when your position is in a minority in your own tradition you should be more persistent in proving your point and address dissenting view points. Perhaps this comes from her own skewed view of her position. She sees herself as a conservative on male/female roles and in some ways she might be in our current context. But overall her position of a woman can do anything an unordained man can do is not conservative when it is placed against the backdrop of God’s people in the past. I might write a more lengthy review later interacting with her exegesis of the two passages she primarily looked at.

I find it ironic that this book is consider non-egalitarian/complementarian when it is close to being full egalitarian and would not be recognized by most of our fathers in the faith as being true to the Scriptures or to the reality of the way God made the world.

My Rating System
1 Star-Terrible book and dangerous. Burn it in the streets.

2 Stars-Really bad book, would not recommend, probably has some dangerous ideas in it or could just be so poorly written/researched that it is not worth reading. Few books I read are 1 or 2 stars because I am careful about what I read.

3 Stars-Either I disagree with it at too many points to recommend it or it is just not a good book on the subject or for the genre. Would not read it again, reference it, or recommend it. But it is not necessarily dangerous except as a time waster.

4 Stars-Solid book on the subject or for the genre. This does not mean I agree with all that is said. I would recommend this book to others and would probably read it again or reference it. Most books fall in this category because I try not to read books I don’t think will be good. There is a quite a variety here. 3.6 is quite different from 4.5.

5 Stars-Excellent book. Classic in the genre or top of the line for the subject. I might also put a book in here that impacted me personally at the time I read it. I would highly recommend this book, even if I do not agree with all that it says. Few books fall in this category. Over time I have put less in this category.

View all my reviews

Dress, Manners, and the Created Order

Courtship 1.jpg
Stephen Clark’s book Man and Woman in Christ has been an excellent read. Near the end of the book he summarizes his conclusions from his study. One point is that Christians should use cultural expressions to express the role differences between men and women. Most societies throughout history, including Western society, have had ways of distinguishing between men and women and their roles. This was done in many ways, but primarily through different modes of dress and manners. Manners here would include what was done and said between men and women. An example my wife just read was how in the Civil War South women did not discuss their pregnancies in front of men. When they became visibly pregnant they stopped going out into society as well. Whatever we think of the practice, it was a way of women distinguishing themselves from men.

In our society there has been a breakdown of differences between men and women. (That sentence is like saying the Titanic was a ship that sunk.) There are coed bathrooms to go along with co-ed dorm rooms. Women can be firefighters, policemen, boxers, wrestlers, soldiers, pastors, football players, and presidents. Add to this the sexual confusion seen in sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuals, transgender, divorce, and abortion and we see a society that has lost any vision of the distinct, glorious, God-ordained differences between men and women. Therefore it is not a surprise that we have tossed aside cultural expressions of those differences. I want to briefly explore how we have done this in dress and manners.

Clothing for men and women has become more uniform. Can you imagine a store with male and female employees requiring their female employees to wear skirts? That thought experiment is enough to show how far we have come. Many movies depict women in pants and military style tank tops just like men wear. Men wear skinny jeans,which are basically yoga pants with buttons. There are still masculine and feminine clothes. But our culture does not demand or expect that. For example, a girl could wear a nice dress to school, but she should just as easily wear masculine clothes. Her hair could be long or short. Feminine dress has become an individual expression instead of a cultural expectation and norm. Many women dress feminine, not because they are women, but because it is an expression of their personal desires. There is no norm, just me dressing in whatever way makes me happy.

But the loss of manners, which distinguish men from women, is more pronounced that the uniformity of dress. Men used to open doors for women, give their seats up for women, wait for women, speak with careful respect to women, avoid certain topics when speaking with women, not lay their hands on women, etc. Men were careful about what they said in front of the ladies. Now we talk to them just like they are one of the guys. Men and woman playing each other in sports would have been unthinkable. Now it is normal. Men and women sharing bathrooms. We have flattened out the differences between men and women. Do we have any normal, social manners where we distinguish men from women?

There is no Biblical command that says, “Open doors for ladies.” However, it is a cultural expression of a Biblical truth: Women and men are different and are to be treated differently. We don’t have to necessarily hang on to opening doors for women. The problem is  that we have jettisoned our fathers’ cultural expressions of role differences without replacing them with new ones. Therefore we are left with little non-verbal language by which we say, “Men and women are different.”

Here is why many complementarians are so feeble in their attempt to hold back the cultural tide of egalitarianism. They believe that men and women are different. But they refuse to allow that truth to impact life in concrete ways. Women can’t be pastors and men should lead in the home….sorta, kinda, almost. But in most places they throw up their hands and say, “Who knows where the line is between men and women’s dress?”  “Is it really wrong for a woman to teach men in church when it isn’t the Sunday morning sermon?” When complementarians think women can be cops, bust drug dealers, and get in firefights they have lost the battle.

There are many people, including some Christians, who do not think there is much of a difference between men and women. They are happy that these walls have been broken down. These people are in rebellion against the created order.

But for those of us who still think men and women were created by God for distinct, glorious roles, then cultural expressions of these differences are necessary. Here I offer two suggestions. Dress in a way that says, “I am a man.” Or “I am a woman.” I am not saying women can’t wear pants or jeans. Nor am I saying that men must wear camo. But make sure your dress fits your sex. There is a lot of freedom here. I am not encouraging a return to all women or men wearing the same thing. I am encouraging men and women to wear clothes that distinguish them from the other sex. We are generally better at this than we are at the second point.

Second, we should bring back distinct ways of treating the opposite sex. The men are primarily responsible for this. We should open doors for the ladies, wait to sit until they are seated, not speak of certain things in front of them, smoke our cigars outside, run late night errands instead of sending our wives into the darkness, rise when they enter the room, protect our ladies physically and spiritually, pull out their chairs, put on their coats, etc. In short, we should find (or recover?) ways of saying, “Men are different from women.” Ladies should let men do this. Many ladies hate having a man give up his seat for them. Why? We don’t have to do all of these and we can create other cultural expressions. But for Christians who think men and women are different we need to have a cultural language that defies the egalitarian ethic of the world we live in. It is not enough to preach from the pulpit or write in books that men and women are different. We must reflect this truth in homes, churches, and communities in actions that say men and women are different.

Originally posted in August 2014, but there are some revisions to this re-post. 

Psalm 119:9~Guarding Your Way With the Word

Is there any segment of society more notorious for their sins than young men? They are often headstrong and willful. Rarely can they see the downstream effects of their actions. They fail to listen carefully to advice thus making foolish and ignorant choices. The psalmist knows this. In fact, he was probably a young man himself. Psalm 119:9-16 begins with something that sounds like a word of despair:

How can a young man cleanse his way?

Or as the ESV says:

How can a young man keep his way pure? 

“Lord, I am a young man. The world is filled with pits and dangers. My heart is filled with sin. There are lusts that wage war on my soul. There are temptations to greed, anger, bitterness, lust, and disrespect all around and I give in to them too often. Lord, how can I stay clean in a world like this with a heart like mine?”

Is that not a cry for help?

The word for “cleanse/pure” points to morally purity. Asaph uses it in Psalm 73:13 where it looks like the wicked are winning. He thinks he has been morally clean for no good reason. David pleads with God to cleanse him from his sins in Psalm 51:7. Here we see that the word does not just point to action, but also to our hearts. David is asking the Lord to clean his heart. Micah 6:11 says that those who cheat others out of money cannot be counted as “pure.” In Psalm 119:9 the emphasis is on how we live, how we walk.

How can I live a pure life in the midst of this wicked world?

The first thing we should note is humans do not change, no matter how much time has passed. Young men in 600 B.C. are the same as young men in A.D. 2015.  Their hair may be different. They carry cell-phones instead of spears. They shop at Wal-Mart instead of hunting for antelope or growing corn. But inside nothing has changed. The temptation to sexual immorality is the same. The desire to get rich while being lazy has not changed. The tightening in the throat when they are told what to do by parents or employers has not changed. Therefore the Bible remains relevant at all times, in all places, and for all men because it is given by the one God who does not change to address the fundamental needs of mankind who does not change. Despite being over 2,500 years old Psalm 119:9 still speaks.


The answer to the young man’s cry is simple. “Take heed/guard [his way] according to God’s Word.”  A young man is to watch his path and his heart. When he sees himself wandering from God’s Word he is to come back. His thoughts, deeds, words, and desires are to be fenced in by the Word of God. God’s Word keeps us from heading down the path of destruction. 

We don’t like this answer. We want something new. We want something magical. And let’s be honest, we want something easy. But the path of holiness is obedience to God’s revealed Word. It always has been and always will be.  The only way a young man can stay clean in this world is to read, study, memorize, and obey the Bible.  The Scriptures are the primary tool for sanctification. If you do not use this tool then you cannot expect victory. There are no short cuts around God’s Word for righteous living. 

The psalmist is telling young men to watch out for “big” sins, such as sexual immorality. But he is talking about much more than that. A young man whose way is guarded by God’s Word will be a man of prayer and repentance. He will be a man whose faith in God grows day by day. He will learn to sacrifice for those around him. He will put off temporary ease for long term gain. He will love his neighbor. He will protect the weak and cast down the proud. He will love to sit underneath God’s Word every Sunday. He will treat women with respect. He will work hard and give generously. His close friends will be those who love Jesus. Be careful about thinking of a pure/clean life only in terms of sexual sin. It includes that of course, but there is much more to “cleansing our way” than avoiding porn. 

The battles young men fight with lust, anger, pride, laziness, disrespect, and apathy are not new battles. They are as old as Genesis 3.  The way to win these battles has always been the same; believe and obey God’s Word. Young men if you are losing the battle against sin you can be sure your failure to believe and obey God’s Word is the main problem. Do you know the Word? Are you reading it regularly? Are you memorizing verses or passages? Do you humbly listen to your pastor every Sunday? God has given all you need to grow in holiness. Are you using what He has given?

Other Posts on Psalm 119
Psalm 119:2-4
Psalm 119:7

The King Who Washes Feet: Part II

The first part of this article can be found here

So What?
            What this passage means for us is easy to see, but hard to do. It means we do the dirty jobs that no one else wants to do. We change diapers and do dishes and vacuum and run to the store at 9 pm for the eggs that were forgotten. We volunteer at work for the job no one wants. As men, we love doing big things. If someone needs help building a shed, we will be there. Gutting a deer? Count me in.  Fixing a car engine? When do I show up? And of course, we should be willing to do the big things. God made us as men to strive for glory. Part of that glory is doing great things for those around us. But this passage teaches us that there is glory in the little things. Our struggle is not fighting off thieves who want to steal our goods. Our struggle is fighting off sleep to listen to our wife at 10 pm. Our struggle is coming home from a long day at work and putting the children to bed or cooking dinner for our roommate. Our struggle is being assigned the lame task at work that no one wants. Men, we cannot faithfully follow our Lord if we only do the great things and refuse to do the little things.   
            One good way to know if you are growing as a servant-leader is to ask this question: Am I willing to do a job that I will never be thanked for and no one will notice?  If you are always looking for praise and only do a job when someone is patting you on the back you are not serving like our Master.
What is He Doing Here?
            If you were Jesus would have let Judas eat the Last Supper? Would you have washed his feet? Imagine if you knew that someone was going to betray. In mere hours, this person would seek to destroy you for a few coins. Would you serve this person? Would you sit down and eat with them? Jesus did.
            Romans 12:17-21 tells us to be kind to our enemies and to bless those who persecute us. Christ gives us a wonderful picture of this truth. Judas had allowed the Devil some control over him (13:2). He had already agreed to betray Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:14-16).  And yet here is the One who set the stars in the heavens and commands legions of angels washing the feet of his betrayer.  In just a few hours Judas will kiss the cheek of Christ and seal the fate of both Lord and disciple.  Why does Jesus wash his feet?
            We must learn to serve those who hate us. Washing the feet of those we love is hard enough. But to wash the feet of our enemies requires grace beyond what we can find in our natural human hearts.  Only Christ can give us the grace to love those who stab us in the back.  Who is that enemy that you refuse to serve? Is there someone at work that you like to “stick it to?” Is there a family member that you refuse to serve because they slandered you in the past? If we are to be like Christ we must serve, not just those we love, but even those who hate us.
Blessed Are Those Who Do
            Finally, notice Jesus’ warning in verse 17.  We all tend to believe that because we have read something or studied something that we are doing it. But between knowing and doing there is often a deep chasm. Jesus reminds us here that knowledge is not enough. Memorizing the passage and studying it in depth is not a substitute for obedience. Only those who obey are blessed.
            But this is not just a warning. It is a promise. Jesus tells us that when we follow in his footsteps we will be blessed. Indeed, the only road to blessing is to follow after Christ. Men, if we want our homes and churches and communities to be blessed by Christ then we must refuse to glorify ourselves. We must put on the clothing of a slave and serve those around us.  We must be willing to do any task, no matter how small or trivial or low, to serve our wives, children, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even our enemies. I asked earlier if we could imagine any of our heroes washing the feet of those around them. But now we must ask the question of ourselves. Could our family or friends or fellow church members imagine us washing their feet? If not, we should repent and follow after the example of our Master.