9.28.2007

"Biblical" Patriarchy

I was actually quite looking forward to reading this statement after I saw an ad for a "Family-Integrated Churches" conference coming up in Wake Forest. I was pretty on board with the first few sections about the pattern of creation, the roles of men and women, and the nature of paternal authority in the home (which was especially outstanding), but then... things took a turn for the fundier. Check it out:

While unmarried women may have more flexibility in applying the principle that women were created for a domestic calling, it is not the ordinary and fitting role of women to work alongside men as their functional equals in public spheres of dominion (industry, commerce, civil government, the military, etc.). The exceptional circumstance (singleness) ought not redefine the ordinary, God-ordained social roles of men and women as created.


Dude. What? I understand there is a difference between "functional" equality (i.e. equality of role or function) and "essential" equality (i.e. equality of personhood or essence), but are we seriously going to say that it's not OK for a woman -- not even a single woman -- to be a partner in a law firm or the head of a hospital department? And am I as a single woman to be granted only an "exceptional" calling? Insulting and condescending, not to mention burdensome.

Or how about this:

God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” still applies to married couples, and He “seeks godly offspring.” He is sovereign over the opening and closing of the womb. Children are a gift of God and it is a blessing to have many of them, if He so ordains. Christian parents are bound to look to Scripture as their authoritative guide concerning issues of procreation. They should welcome with thanksgiving the children God gives them. The failure of believers to reject the anti-life mindset of the age has resulted in the murder of possibly millions of unborn babies through the use of abortifacient birth control.


This one makes me want to cuss, people. I'm tracking right with them -- yes, fruitful, good. OK, godly offspring (tiny quibble here, but moving along). Yes, sovereign over procreation. Absolutely, children are gifts. Yes, Scripture is the authority. And then -- SCREEEEECH! Rapid application of mental brakes. Let's break down the logical fallacies here. Appeal to emotion: "murder... of unborn babies." Straw man: "anti-life mindset of the age." Appeal to probability and argument from ignorance: "possibly millions." False premise, oversimplification: "Failure of believers to reject... has resulted." Special pleading, undistributed middle: "abortifacient birth control."

Christians, as people who at least claim to be informed by a Biblical worldview need to think long and hard about how birth control fits in with our family lives. Have we simply absorbed the societal view of birth control willy-nilly, allowing secular culture to tell us what to think about children? Do we view children as inconveniences to be postponed as long as possible so we can accomplish our goals, or do we view them as Scripture tells us to: as blessings from the Lord to be received with open arms? These are issues we must wrestle with! The fact that we are even discussing this -- and the fact that many of my recently married friends have elected not to use birth control -- shows that we are addressing the issues. But to imply that (1) believers have embraced an "anti-life mindset," that (2) this mindset has "resulted" in "murder" -- which, seriously, look up the word murder; it necessarily implies intentionality, and that (3) a vague, undefined "abortifacient birth control" is to blame for the deaths of millions is patently absurd and illogical.

Furthermore, this sort of statement practically defines legalism: making a conviction binding where Scripture does not speak. I am NOT saying that Scripture doesn't speak to issues of fertility. I am NOT saying that we cannot draw personal conclusions or derive personal convictions from Biblical principles. But I AM saying that we must not prescribe beliefs or actions that bind others' consciences apart from a specific command or principle in Scripture.

And finally, before I run out of steam:

Education is not a neutral enterprise. Christian parents must provide their children with a thoroughly Christian education, one that teaches the Bible and a biblical view of God and the world. Christians should not send their children to public schools since education is not a God-ordained function of civil government and since these schools are sub-Christian at best and anti-Christian at worst.


Aaaaaaarrrrrgh!

OK, first, I am usually very pro-homeschooling. Parents know their kids' needs better than anyone else (ideally), and those who are equipped to teach well and feel compelled to educate their children at home should do so. My sister-in-law is doing a fantastic job of homeschooling my nephew, who is very bright but also sometimes slightly unfocused, and so would probably not thrive in a traditional classroom as much as he is in a one-on-one setting. If the Lord grants me a husband and children, I will consider homeschooling and would probably not send them to public school.

All that being said, however... more logical fallacies are popping up here. The implication seems to be that you either give your children comprehensive Christian worldview training or you send them to public school. That's a false dichotomy. It's not impossible to train your children in life and godliness while also sending them to public school. This is an issue to be decided by parents after much prayer and consideration. Simple geography also plays a role: the public school in my hometown was just fine for my brother and me, full of Christian teachers and administrators, and careful not to restrict the rights of Christian students.

Moreover, see the above argument about binding people's consciences! You can't say (or imply) that it's un-Christian to send your kids to public school. You can argue that it's unwise in certain, or even many or all, cases (and I have). You can lay out the facts about the quality and content of public education. You can form an argument from Scripture about the duty of parents to educate their children and not abdicate or "outsource" that responsibility to school or church. But you simply cannot point to Scripture and say, "this says Christians shouldn't send their children to public school."

Overall I'm pretty disappointed with the inflammatory, "no true Scotsman"-type rhetoric and (il)logic that colors this whole document.

Any other thoughts?

10 comments:

gad said...

For now, just a "Preach it, sister." Hopefully I'll get time to look at the whole statement.

gad

One Salient Oversight said...

Here's a basic question:

If having kids is a "blessing" (as it obviously is), then is it therefore sinful to refuse this blessing?

Psalm 104.15 says that God gave wine to gladden the heart of man. Could a refusal to drink alcohol therefore be sinning too since wine is a blessing?

Paul spoke highly of the unmarried life in 1 Corinthians.

The Proverbs 31 woman ran her own business.

These people are not truly "fundies" because they don't obey scripture.

Laura said...

Hehe... OSO, two things:

1. Thanks for changing the picture. Much less terrifying.

2. Very interesting points, though I think you're overreaching just a bit. They did say in one of the sections that a woman could be involved in the marketplace -- it would be irresponsible to say otherwise, given the Prov. 31 passage you refer to.

I think it can be sinful to "refuse" to have children, if that refusal indicates obstinacy to God's sovereignty (a bit like saying, Lord, I refuse to be a missionary) or if it indicates an unbiblical attitude to children.

And I think a person is similarly in danger of sin if he has an unbiblical attitude to wine!

But I think your examples highlight the absurdity in some of their argumentation methods quite well. Thanks for stopping by.

Laura's mom said...

Just a word about abortifacient birth control: if you choose to use birth control to aid in timing your family, ensure that your discussion with the doc includes exactly how the pill works. The reason they are called "birth control" is because many control birth, not conception. In the '70's, we were not told that many pills allowed you to become pregnant, but inhibited implantation and flushed away the zygote with a false menses. What we thought was ovulation suppression was merely a monthly emptying of the uterus and its contents. We were warned that there might be "tissue or clots", but that that was "perfectly normal"

Just be informed, ladies. While we would not use IUD's because they irritated the lining of the uterus, preventing implantation, we ignorantly used pills, thinking we were making the better choice.

Laura said...

Mom, that's exactly the tone I think people ought to use -- encouraging Christian women to get all the information available, without making sweeping judgments about the moral rectitude of "natural family planning." In my ethics class a couple semesters ago, our prof suggested a list of questions women needed to ask their ob-gyn's about birth control; stuff about the level of hormones, how it works (i.e. as a contraceptive or as an implantation preventive), if it has a "backup" abortifacient effect, etc.

Thanks for sharing with my few but faithful readers from your experiences, mamacita!!

One Salient Oversight said...

Laura's mom:

I wrote about this issue in February this year on my blog here. I'll just cut and past the relevant bits:

----------------

Let me just summarise the particular problem that Christians have with the pill:

1) A woman who uses the Pill as a contraceptive will prevent conception in 99% of cases. This is because the Pill prevents ovulation.

2) In 1% of cases, the woman will ovulate and there is a chance that conception will occur.

3) The Pill causes changes in the woman's uterus that prevents the fertilised egg from being implanted, which results in the loss of the fertilised egg.

4) A Fertilised egg is considered a human being created by God.

5) Therefore, if a woman used the Pill, then she may be causing the death of a human being.

6) Therefore, Christians should not use the Pill for contraception.

It's an interesting argument. Let me point out that I am reasonably conservative at this point. I believe that a fertilised egg is a human being and this new information that I have learned today has disturbed me and forced me to delve into the issue more deeply. My wife and I used the Pill early on in our marriage for a couple of years, and it has shocked me that we may have caused the death of an unborn child.

Fortunately, I have found the answer. The answer lies in the natural prevalence of miscarriages.

Medical science has determined that a full 25% of conceptions result in miscarriage - most of them occurred within the first few weeks and went totally unnoticed by the woman.

We need to remember that, while sad, such a high death rate has been recognised by God. It is he who has chosen such a high number of miscarriages.

So if a woman takes the Pill, she actually prevents conception - which results in less miscarriages. Yes, a fetus may die because it does not implant in the wall of the uterus - but overall, there are less deaths.

To reiterate - using the Pill results in far less miscarriages than normal.

To illustrate - imagine a woman who is super fertile and will conceive whenever the chance occurs. If she takes the pill, then, statistically, one child will die for every 100 times she, um, well... you know. But if she does not take the pill, then, statistically, 25 children will die. (She will also have 75 kids, which shows how limited this illustration is)

Laura said...

OSO -- the pill is 99% effective in lab tests but from a quick survey of public-health sites it's closer to 95%. Well, the actual stat is that 5 out of 100 women who use the pill/patch/ring will get pregnant in a year.

Your point stands, however.

I still think it's important to examine hearts as much as hormones. There are good reasons to delay pregnancy within marriage, but there are also lots of bad ones, which reveal selfish, fearful, or controlling motives. Those reasons we must reject.

I recently talked with some friends about their reasoning for quitting the pill. For them, it was a symptom of not trusting the Lord. They expressed frustration about the reactions of some of their friends and family members when they decided to do this -- seems some of their loved ones were pretty judgmental of their decision, even though this couple is always careful to point out that it's a personal choice, not that it's wrong for everyone to take the pill. I think their situation highlights the fact that we need to let this be a choice informed by biblical principles and made by families, not forced on people.

Laura said...

Also, OSO, keep in mind that my mom is talking about the birth control available in the 1970's, not today's much more sophisticated stuff -- she specifically mentions a type of birth control that did NOT prevent fertilization, but DID prevent implantation.

ChrisB said...

I'm still looking into the question, but apparently people are alleging that the modern birth control pill does not prevent ovulation, only implantation of the embryo. If true, people are causing miscarriages thinking that they are preventing pregnancy. That is, I think, what the speaker is talking about.

I don't know if he's correct (as I said, still looking into it), but it's a serious question that needs to be addressed.

Laura said...

Chris, most (if not all) modern birth control does in fact prevent ovulation. Some modern birth control has a "backup" chemical that prevents implantation in case of what's called "breakthrough ovulation."