Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart.
Danvers Statement – Affirmation 2
My disdain for the Danvers Statement and the Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood differs from that of Evangelical Egalitarians. My criticisms include:
- Exegetical incompetence/dissembling and eisegetical license for self-serving male purposes
- Low vision of marriage and the marital Ideal
- Introduction of a legalistic rigidity in gender relations (“roles”), which Scriptures prudently avoids
- An unsound Scriptural and rational basis for decision-making and conflict resolution
- A superficial comprehension of the distinctions between genders which impedes the Christian argument against same-sex relationships
Critique (c) will be extensively addressed here. As noted in the prior article, woman as man’s “helper” in the sense of a loyal and suitable assistant goes beyond what is written (1 Cor 4:6) and cannot be incontrovertibly deduced from Scriptures. And restrictions that woman can teach, but not to men (in the church); and exercise authority, but not without it having been delegated hardly proffers evidence of an extensive framework of rigid “roles.” Indeed, the Americans, who authored the RBMW, seem influenced more by Adam Smith’s functionalist division of labour in marriage and ecclesiastical affairs than the counsel of the God of Scriptures, in a modern instance of The Babylonian Captivity of the Church (Martin Luther, 1520).
If there exists such categories as social “roles” between the sexes, such categories must be ruthlessly consistent in all places, at all times, and under all situations. Scriptures contradicts such categorical rigidities. Indeed, Biblical accounts of gender divisions of roles, office, functions etc. are quite flexible and fluid.
What roles would these be? Is it, by God’s ordinance, the male “role” to be sole protector and material provider of wife and family?
When men fight with one another and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand. Your eye shall have no pity. (Deut 25:11–12)
Mosaic Law presumes that wives will come to defense of spouse, family, and household. It merely provided Marquess of Queensberry rules of engagement. Certain ‘military tactics’ are simply off-limits. But no sanction existed against a woman who assails the assailant by any other means. And what is one to make of the prophetess, warrior, and judge Deborah or the “Most blessed of women be Jael [who] struck Sisera…crushed his head…shattered and pierced his temple” (Judg 5:24, 26)? This is not to suggest that the male, having advantage in things physiological, ought to abdicate his role. But this hardly speaks to the notion of the protector role being the sole gender prerogative of a male.
The wife of noble character in Proverbs 31 certainly took a lead role in providing for the economic welfare of the family; as purchasing agent of raw materials (v. 13) and of capital goods (v. 16), manufacturer (vv. 13, 19), merchant (vv. 18, 24), and subcontractor (v. 24). When Paul enjoined the young women “to be busy at home” (Tit 2:5) and “to manage their homes” 1 Tim 5:14); the home, at that time and indeed in most times, was generally the epicenter for economic activity of the family. This is not to suggest that the male ought not to “provide for his relatives and especially for his immediate family . . . [otherwise] he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim 5:8). But again, neither does this speak to a notion that it is the sole gender prerogative of a male.
It is a mark of feminine nobility that “she provides food for her family” (Prov 31:15) and “watches over the affairs of her household” (Prov 31:27). Be it true that biological necessity requires heavy motherly early investment in the children. But this hardly precludes male participation in the endeavor. Martin Luther prodigiousness in pastoring, writing, and historical impact did not suffer in the performance and advocating of “a father [who] goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child” in the face of ridicule “as an effeminate fool.” Logic dictates that in order for fathers to “bring [children] up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4), fathers have to be there. Universal and visceral outrage would attend any husband who fails to cover for his wife when she is ailing.
The notion of categorical and rigid “roles” is inconsistent with scriptural witness and the logic of existential realities. Promulgating such a paradigm requires a defense of the indefensible, and discredits Christianity as illogical. In truth, I cannot imagine that the promulgators of this hypothesis scrupulously live according by it. God forbid that they do!
In ensuing articles, I will argue that gender distinctions operate on the basis of natural propensities of each gender. In this, I am largely excising sexual concerns from consideration for the purposes of clarity. I contend that these differences (i.e. approaches to appropriating existential realities) are largely natural rather than socially constructed, although the latter can reinforce the psychic force of the former. Furthermore, these differences in propensities, although palpable and radical, are probabilistic and mutable. Change towards that of the other is possible, but difficult and slower than is expected.
These radical differences in propensities make the ability of one gender or the other to perform different tasks better than the other. This does not exclude the possibility of the other gender to perform them. However, failure to acknowledge the differences in natural propensities, and public policies bent towards fighting against these natural realities can only hurt the social entity that so ventures.
 Martin Luther, “The Estate of Marriage,” 1522, Translated by Walther I. Brandt, in Luther Works, Vol. 45 – The Christian in Society II, St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1962.