Out of the Heart, the Mouth Speaks (and the Pen Writes)

Assigning motives to other people is a dangerous game... and suggesting psychological diagnoses for people is an even more dangerous one. But it is game I like to play from time to time, when the responses of others strike me as inexplicable. Call it part of the human quest to make sense of the world. Or perhaps call it imaginative play. 

So let us imagine for a moment I am having a pastoral conversation with someone who said that "a man would be damaged and compromised by having a female boss"... just because she is female. I'd have warning bells ringing in my heart. I'd be tempted to start gently probing about this person's experience of women in authority during childhood. Did this man have an over-controlling or abusive mother? Were there toxic teachers or carers in his life? Transference involving unresolved childhood pain is so common that pastoral carers always need to be on the lookout for it. If signs appeared he actually had been at the receiving end of an abuse of power by a woman, I'd be inclined to refer him to a female counsellor / psychotherapist to start unravelling the inner pain this has caused. 

Now I have written before on this blog I have a hunch (you can call it feminine intuition if you like) that Complementarian theology is less to do with hermeneutics (a big theological word meaning how we interpret text) and more to do with deep-seated attitudes toward women. So I was rather struck by the quotes from John Piper's Book, "What's the Difference" posted on this blog yesterday:

"To the degree that a woman's influence over man is personal and directive it will generally offend a man's good, God-given sense of responsibility and leadership, and thus controvert God's created order. A woman may design the traffic pattern of a city's streets and thus exert a kind of influence over all male drivers. But this influence will be non-personal and therefore not necessarily an offense against God's order . . . . All acts of influence lie on the continuum between personal and impersonal . . . . Some influence is very directive, some is non-directive. For example, a drill sergeant would epitomize directive influence. It would be hard to see how a woman could be a drill sergeant over men without violating their sense of masculinity and her sense of femininity . . . . The God-given sense of responsibility for leadership in a mature man will not generally allow him to flourish long under personal directive leadership of a female superior. J.I. Packer suggested that "a situation in which a female boss has a male secretary" puts strain on the humanity of both. I think this would be true in other situations as well. Some of the more obvious ones would be . . . . in professional baseball if a woman is made the umpire to call balls and strikes and frequently to settle heated disputes among men" (pp.62-63).

Wow. Am I crazy here... or does this sound like the writings of someone who has an emotional problem with receiving any instruction from any woman? So what is going on here? More than just theological reflection, I suspect. Just a hunch.

Or let me imagine another scenario... I am supervising a pastor who reports he is telling women they are sinning unless they perform particular sex acts (unwanted by them) with their husbands. I'd be worried not only about this person's theology, but their personal sexual integration. The Whiteheads point out (in "Seasons of Strength") that sometimes men have hostility toward women because they are struggling with their own sexual drive. In order to deal this this, they objectify women. This is quite normal in adolescence: it is pretty tragic if it persists in an adult male, and particularly disturbing when found in pastors.

I recently read some some choice quotes from another well-known Complementarian, (Mark Driscoll), and thought... what is going on with him? Is his theology about women emerging from serious biblical study, or more from unresolved sexual integration?

As I pointed out in this article, one of the reasons Wayne Grudem is opposed to women's ordination is his belief this is an inevitable slippery slope toward "defrocking" Complementarian men and ordaining homosexual pastors. OK... more insightful hermeneutics there... or is some other dynamic of fear going on?

I don't know any of these people... I do wonder about their biases, and where these might stem from.

Am I biased about women in ministry, you may ask? Of course! Not only because I have studied the topic intensively, but also because I have a strong sense that God has called me to ministry, and I guess there would be something drastically wrong with me if I were delusional about this. I don't like that assessment! I know I am biased, and I think I know pretty well why I am biased. I wonder whether Piper, Driscoll and Grudem really know why they are biased? Not just in the head, but in the heart and soul.  

Why does it matter? Because Truth matters. Because wholeness in Christ matters... for Piper, Driscoll, Grudem, and for all of us. Because what is taught changes people's behaviour. Because the Kingdom of God is meant to bring liberation, healing, vision, hope, and Life with a capital L. Because teaching legalistic obedience ultimately leads to oppression. Because if the church is to be fully the agent of mission in the world as God intends, every member should be released into service according to their gifts and calling. Attempts to quash the gifts of women in an attempt to manage deep-seated feelings of anger, or to manage unresolved sexuality, or in an attempt to preserve one's job, is harmful to people and harmful to the Kingdom.

As I have written about endlessly on this blog, the theological mainstream has well and truly shifted to an Egalitarian position... so what keeps these proponents of Complementarian theology raising their voices? Is it about theology, or about something else? My hunches could be way off-beam, and very unfair, but I thought I'd play the "imaginary motives game" to make sense of what I find perplexing behaviour. What do you think motivates Complementarians? And does it matter?


Amanda Morrice said…
"It would be hard to see how a woman could be a drill sergeant over men without violating their sense of masculinity and her sense of femininity"
this guy never met the deputy principal of my secondary school. Very much a 'drill sergeant' at times, she was a woman not to be trifled with. I don't think anyone's sense of gender was violated either. And for the record, we all loved her to bits! She has been an enormously positive influence on my life and I am sure on those around her.
Janet Woodlock said…
Yes, it smacks to me of someone who has never had much experience of women's leadership, so who imagines it would be horrible. In reality, people who are strong and kind and just win respect no matter whether they are male or female... unless the person experiencing their leadership already has some kind of emotional problem around one gender or another. Which was kind of my point!
Lucy J said…
I am a fan of "actions speak louder than words" and enjoy living the Godly alternative to their rather hilarious hermeneutics and "argumentum ad absurdum" trains of thought.

We can always pray for them, can't we?
Janet Woodlock said…
I'm generally a fan of the "shake your dust off your sandals and move on to the next town" metaphor. ie... if people won't listen, move (without baggage) on to others who will receive you. And yes... we can always pray. Especially for revival, for when God's Spirit works in power, our absurdities fall away, as men and women, young and old, are caught up in the power of God.

When I saw Piper's quote I got a bit crotchety. I guess I need to grow in grace!
Elizabeth said…
Yes I think some people's "theology" is based on their personal problems, and yes, a good reminder that we need to pray for them.
Janet Woodlock said…
Nice to hear from you Elizabeth, and thanks!

I believe it's inevitable that theology emerges from our experience. In fact, if this is not true, there is an unhealthy disconnect (I think) between our heads and hearts.

When we lug some unhealthy personal issues around with us (as all people do to some extent I suppose) it might translate into unhealthy theology... the God who is a legalist, a punishing God, a "laisez-faire I don't even care if your behaviour is destructive" God, etc. etc.

We need to test ourselves, and test the teaching of others, as the scriptures instruct.
Elizabeth said…
Hi Janet, thanks. That's interesting, that theology emerges from our experience. l'll have to think about that one. Jesus tended to teach from the personal didn't he.
I guess that's always the worry when one starts to perceive holes in other people's theology - what baggage am I carrying that influences my understanding of the topic?
Our family left a very legalistic church last year (became more and more legalistic as we were there) nice to be able to breathe gain, but I'm left wondering how someone becomes so bound up in such theological nonsense, and whether I am similarly at risk of being so silly!
Janet Woodlock said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janet Woodlock said…
I think the truth is we're all at risk of being captive to our culture... this is inevitable and part of being human. One of the reasons why hearing theology from different cultural voices is helpful (and even from subcultures and from both genders) is the potential it offers to open ourselves up to fresh perspectives and to hold some things lightly. I'm happy to hold some things tightly (like the love and grace of God)and to hold most things a little loosely. As it says in I Corinthians: "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
Elizabeth said…
I'm off to re-read that passage, thanks for that.

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