Objections to a Masculine God, Part One

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 November 2011 06:00 Written by Father Bill Wednesday, 30 November 2011 06:00

god masculinity bibleIs God masculine? Feminists laugh at the notion. Evangelical feminists tut-tut what they claim is the understandable parochialness of the idea. Complementarians bend over backward to grant as much of the feminist critique of patriarchy as they think is needed, in order to defang the challenge they fear by the question itself. And even defenders of Biblical patriarchy will often scoff at the question, declaring that asking this question makes fundamental category mistake when relating our ideas about God to human notions of sexuality.

However, Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:7 makes the point clear: God is masculine. To understand the impact of Paul’s statement today we first need to glance backward at the debate within evangelicalism over the past 40 years or so.

As the feminist revanche against Western patriarchy began to gather steam in academia during the 1970s, evangelical lights within academia were beset with a dilemma. On one hand, they could forthrightly defend Western patriarchy insofar as it grows out of an underlying Biblical patriarchy. The great risk to this approach, however, is that such defenders of Biblical patriarchy would be tarred with the label “fundamentalist” by their feminist colleagues within the academy, and avoiding such disgrace (for it is a disgrace to them to ever allow themselves to credibly be insulted with such a term) is the basic foundation of the evangelical agenda within academe since the beginning of modern evangelicalism in the 1940s.

The other option is the one evangelicals adopted. It has two prongs: (1) to grant to the feminist deconstruction of Biblical patriarchy as much of its critique as possible, doing so with fawning humility, and (2) to posit an explanation of Biblical patriarchy that avoids vulnerability to the feminist slander as persistently as evangelicalism has ever avoided vulnerability to being called fundamentalist.

At the core of feminism’s antagonism to Biblical patriarchy is the Bible’s portrait of God Himself. The bluntly masculine portrait of God that one finds in the Bible gives feminism its chief target. And for so-called evangelical feminists on one hand, or for complementarians on the other hand, God’s patent masculinity in Biblical revelation is ultimately something to be explained away, or explained in a way that makes it of little lasting consequence.

So, again, is God masculine? Let’s begin by evaluating the contention of those patriarchalists who think the question itself is faulty. They think this for any or all of the following reasons:

(1) “masculinity” is a modern concept, unknown in the Bible’s lexicon;

(2) God’s transcendence renders foolish any attempt to speak of Him in created categories; God is “beyond” gender, and so “God is masculine” makes a pointless predication about Him; and

(3) “masculinity” as a predicate for God amounts to an anthropomorphism, and only the spiritually unsophisticated would think such an affirmation is factually true. We will examine each of these objections in turn in subsequent blogs.

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Millennial Women Are Burning Out

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 November 2011 11:32 Written by Father Bill Thursday, 17 November 2011 11:32

Larissa Faw, a contributor to Forbes, tells us that “a growing number of young professional women who seem to ‘have it all’ are burning out at work before they reach 30.” Most of her piece summarizes various reasons for why Millennial Women – “ambitious go-getters [who] are working as doctors, lawyers, engineers, and advertising executives, blessed with great salaries, health benefits, and paid vacation – nevertheless flame out while their male peers do not (at least not nearly in the same numbers, with the disparity increasing as the Millennial Careers advance beyond entry-level positions).

For example, Ms. Faw opines that lack of relaxation probably takes a toll. She cites Melanie Shreffler of the youth marketing blog Ypulse: “These women worked like crazy in school, and in college, and then they get into the workforce and they are exhausted.” On the other hand, Captivate Network reveals that compared to their female peers “Men are 25% more likely to take breaks throughout the day for personal activities, 7% more likely to take a walk, 5% more likely to go out to lunch, and 35% more likely to take breaks ‘just to relax.’”

Here’s a shocker: “It’s not as if these women expected their jobs to be parties and good times, but many underestimated the actual day-to-day drudgery.” And why, you ask, is this so shocking to read? Well, it’s because the classic work of women – to make a home for husband and children – was so thoroughly trashed by all the feminist founders of the Millennial Woman lifestyle, beginning with Betty Friedan in the 1950s and on to all the Women’s Studies centers in universities which insinuated their agenda into every other degree program in every other college on campus for the past 50 years.

Home making? Drudgery! And, now the workplace is filled with drudgery too? Who knew??

Ms. Faw continues, without the slightest hint of embarrassment: “Also, while earlier generations may have opted out of the workforce through marriage or motherhood, these paths aren’t viable for these self-sufficient women, who either are still single or unwilling to be fully supported by men.”

Well, there you have it. Women need men like fish need bicycles, right? Self-sufficient Millennial Women can’t “opt-out” through marriage or motherhood. These are paths Millennial Women are unwilling to take. Evidently, they prefer single self-supporting drudgery to the drudgery of companionship and (yes, it’s shocking to say such a thing nowadays) the support of a husband. It’s soooo demeaning to be a “kept-woman,” dontcha know!

Purdue University’s Teri Thompson’s analysis is cold comfort. Ms. Faw summarizes Thompson’s insight this way: “Ultimately these women are going through the difficult realization that they may have to redefine their goals and come up with different measures of success in order to thrive in the corporate world.” Why, we wonder, is departing the corporate world for something more – uh, well, sheltered? – not a possibility to consider? Instead, Millennial Women “are turning to therapists and prescription medicines, as well as [to] explore alternative remedies, including acupuncture, yoga, and even psychics.”

Over a hundred years ago, when feminism was giving its first full-throated cry, G. K. Chesterton had its mistake accurately analyzed and published for all to read in What’s Wrong With The World (1910). Following the teaching of Christendom, which itself had learned from the Bible how men and women differ in their work, Chesterton nailed the feminist mistake about the old way of women in the home with these words:

When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean.

To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.

These days, of course, “woman’s function” is nothing like what it was in Chesterton’s day.  That function –  to be wife and mother to a family – is now deemed to be drudgery in the nonsense meaning Chesterton describes above.  Rearing children is something for the State, at as early an age as politics will permit.  And wifery?  Well, Friedan broke women out of that comfortable concentration camp (her term for domesticity, in case you haven’t read The Feminine Mystique).  Now women are free to pursue their Millennial Careers as Millennial Women – single, self-sufficient, and burned out.

The penchant women have for playing the generalist, in contrast to the specialist bent of most men in the workplace, is a distinction between the sexes as old as Adam and Eve in the Garden. And, if we take the human who is by design (yes, yes, feminists won’t grant you that one either, I know) equipped to administrate in a private domain 100 disparate agendas simultaneously and place her instead in competition against the male in the public arena where he excels in a narrow focus relentlessly pursued as a hound chases a fox – well, might we not predict the woman to burn out as Ms. Faw describes?

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Dodging a Bullet?

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 October 2011 02:40 Written by Father Bill Tuesday, 11 October 2011 02:40

October 1, 2008, I delivered an address to an evangelical seminary, explaining to an audience that was obviously excited about Sarah Palin’s place on the Republican 2008 Presidential ticket that Palin’s election would be a disaster for evangelical Protestantism in America. When I published the text of my remarks, along with the name of the institution where I delivered them, the Dean of Men who had invited me to speak requested that I remove the name of the school from this blog, since the school administration was taking heat because the school’s name was now associated with my remarks that night, along with my subsequent commentary on those remarks. Nevertheless, the lecture I gave that night (I always speak from a transcript) may still be read here at this blog.

It is now three years and one week later. Mrs. Palin was not elected as Vice-President about a month after I spoke, and now we know (I think) that she will not be a candidate for the Republican nominee for President next year. Some hope she may mount a third-party run for the office. But, if Palin has as much political savvy as her supporters claim, she must surely know that a third-party run would hand a doubtful re-election to Barak Obama.

Meanwhile, evangelical Christians in America – a sizable voting bloc when they can be united behind a candidate – have dodged another bullet. Indeed, the fading campaign of Michele Bachman is yet another bullet dodged. There is nothing that would cement the cause of religious feminism among evangelicals more than to for an evangelical woman to land at the top of a political ticket.

On the other hand, if a woman, especially an ostensibly evangelical woman, were never to be elected as Vice-president or President, the body politic would not escape the decline and corruption of our political culture from feminism, whether secular or religious. Phyllis Schafly, when she succeeded almost single-handed in keeping the Equal Rights Amendment from passage, won a hollow victory. Subsequent amendments to state constitutions across the land more or less enshrined the main objectives of the ERA into state law, and Federal Courts have more or less done the same thing piecemeal in Federal case law.

And, yet, the sheer power of symbolism can be a threat which the sexually sane may be thankful that it has not scorched the small, tender shoots of sexual sanity that sprout in the wilderness. While the Western world, led by feminist America, bleeds away its sexual vitality by embracing sexual gnosticism across the board, those who do not go along with the program at least have a chance to flee to political, economic, and cultural backwaters, where they might, just might, cultivate a tiny demographic of sexually sane Christian men and women to rebuild a civilization amidst the mouldering remains of a culture that committed sexual suicide.

It’s happened before, as the fecund, sexually sane Germanic slave culture of Italy inherited the future as the feminist Roman culture faded into oblivion. Consider de Reincourt’s succinct summary:

 It has all started with the feminist revolution in the upper classes; with the progress of democratic equality under the Caesarian empire, it had spread downward and outward, to reach the urban proletariat and the rural peasantry. Infanticide was widespread, and sexual lewdness undoubtedly lowered men’s and women’s fertility; marriage was frequently deferred or avoided altogether. At the end of this evolution, the Western Roman empire was rapidly becoming, in population terms, an empty shell. The Romans actually committed ethnic suicide.

The collapse of the western Roman Empire was the inevitable consequence. Fast breeding Teutonic populations eventually overwhelmed it and plunged Europe into the Dark Ages. But before this came about, signs began to appear in the midst of this moral degeneration pointing to a rebirth of ethics and a reconstruction of family life; a revival of religious faith and a renewed search for the meaning of life. The old Roman faith was as dead as the Greek; in both cases their patriarchal pantheons had collapsed. And, yet, a religious awakening began sweeping over the entire Roman Empire. [Sex and Power in History (New York: Dell, 1974), pg. 127)]

 De Reincourt’s words, quoted above, come at the end of his survey of Rome. Its decline, he makes clear, was not from the patriarchal pantheon, but from its feminist repudiation of the classical roles of women as wives and mothers which invigorated it in earlier centuries. So also the decline of the Greeks. It was the patriarchal Christian faith which highly valued wives and mothers without rooting that value in male roles in society from which the future Europe would arise.

That Christian patriarchal patrimony in the West was swept away in a single generation in the midst of the Twentieth Century. And, everywhere the beginnings of cultural and economic disintegration in the West may be watched on television screens in every home in the land. In Europe, it is not fecund German slaves who are repopulating the lands where native European populations are in steep decline from a simple refusal to reproduce; rather, it is fecund Muslim mothers from the Middle East and North Africa who are laying the demographic foundations for a replacement culture that is radically anti-Christian.

The history of patriarchal Christianity in the Twenty-First Century will be exciting. In America, however, its enemy is not to any significant degree yet from Islam. Instead, it is religious feminism, claiming the name of Christianity, which is set upon eradicating the old Biblical Trinitarian faith and the patriarchal relationship of men and women that is embedded in it.

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