More on Pragmatics and the Christian Patriarchy Movement

The more and more I read about the Christian Patriarchy movement the more I have come to the conclusion that part of the reason why they get away with what they do is because they have good rhetoric. They try to cover up their poor, self-contradictory hermeneutics with rhetoric. A case in point is a discussion I have been having over in the comments box of a recent article by Gary DeMar. While it is difficult to say whether some or even any of them are part of the Christian Patriarchy Movement, as you can see, the three gentleman who tried to respond to points I made in my post about pragmatism and the upcoming elections simply made no headway. I don’t think most of them realized how utterly self-contradictory and inconsistent they were in how they applied scripture. Still, the rhetoric was sharp, even when there was no substance, even when they did not prove their interpretations. The ability of this legalistic mindset to assume certain interpretations of scripture is amazing. Even after I had refuted their accusations of “pragmatism” and “the lesser of the two evils,” they still kept using that rhetoric. That is why I told them that rhetoric is no substitute for truth.

Around the same time, Scott Brown posted this piece about the upcoming elections. You will notice many similarities in the hermeneutics that Scott Brown uses in this piece and the hermeneutics that the three gentlemen were using in our discussion on American Vision’s website. Again, when you isolate these “qualifications,” not just from the whole value system of scripture, but from what the text is seeking to accomplish, you will grossly misapply these passages to situations where we can only have a small influence on these elections, and cannot actually choose our leaders.

However, I found this section very interesting:

A male (Exodus 18:21; Deuteronomy 1:13)
The Scriptures require that we “choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men.” The word men used here is not the generic term for “mankind” but rather the word for “male.” Everywhere the qualifications for civil leaders are mentioned in the Bible, males – not females – are identified.

Of course, Scott Brown is simply wrong here. The Hebrew term איש, while it can mean “male” can also mean “human being.” Here are just a few of the lexicons that bear this out:

4. human being: אמת איש common cubit Dt 3:11, שבס אנשים rod used by men 2S 7:14; בני איש sons of man, mortals Ps 62:10 (|| בני אדם :: Ps 49:3, ï Cazelles OTS 13:141f, ארץ לא-איש void of men || מדבר Jb 38:26;

Let us also consider the older Brown Driver Briggs lexicon:

Pr 18:24; oft. distrib. = each, every Gn 9:5 10:5 40:5; 40:5 Ex 12:3 +; incl. women Jb 42:11 1 Ch 16:3

Obviously, BDB specifically says that there are instances of איש that include women. The theological wordbook of the Old Testament likewise says:

Frequently the word functions as an individualizing element connoting the concept “each” as in “each person” (Gen 10:5). It also functions in a broadly inclusive sense meaning whoever” (Lev 15:5).

Hence, Scott Brown is simply wrong to say that “The word men used here is not the generic term for ‘mankind’ but rather the word for ‘male.'” About the only term that could have been used that would rule out the possibility of an interpretation that would include females is the term זכר. Like most words, this word must be defined by its context. While it is true that the majority of leaders in the Ancient Near East were males, there were a few notable female leaders such as Hatsheput and Twosret. People will also point to Deborah, the great judge of Israel. However, most of the patriarchalists try to get around this by saying that this was a time of great sin in Israel. However, the problem is that the judgeship of Deborah is simply not viewed as one of those sins. In fact, her faithfulness stands in stark contrast to the men around her who rebelled against God. She is seen as a bright spot in an otherwise unfaithful nation. Such a portrail does not bode well for those who want to limit the term “men” in Exodus 18:21 and Deuteronomy 1:13 to males only.

Hence, I would say that, given the reality that women were allowed to rule in the Ancient Near East, given the fact that a woman judge is presented as a good sign in bleak moral and ethical conditions, I would say that it is gross eisegesis to claim that these texts rule out the possibility of women serving in political office.

Nevertheless, I will add this one caveat, and that is that in the ancient near east, men were preferred over women for political leadership. More than that, the Bible calls the woman “the weaker vessel.” Is it really a wise thing to have the kind of pressure that civil rulers face pointed at the weaker vessel? Depends upon how weak they are. A Margret Thacher could handle it. However, given that women are weaker, should we expect that they can handle such a responsibility as often as men can? That is why women candidates must be examined on a case by case basis and not just written off because they are women.

However, I also want to make the observation that this is what happens when you seek to apply scripture by looking for black and white applications, when scripture doesn’t give them. Yes, the Bible is relevant to these areas, but sometimes the Bible wants us to exercise wisdom in how we apply the text of scripture. I thought this comment left by a guy named Tom Chantry on Phil Johnson’s blog was excellent, as it demonstrates the need for wisdom in how we apply the scriptures to our lives. He is exactly right. This kind of legalistic thinking takes away the need to exercise wisdom in how we apply the scriptures, and it turns application into a mechanical process. No wisdom is needed for “If this happens do this.” Is it any wonder that these folks have been accused of the kinds of spiritual abuse that they have? When you do not take care to wisely apply the text of scripture, and you view everything as black and white, you will indeed end up abusing people because you will force them to fit into a mold of your own making that you then impose upon the scriptures. While the Bible certainly does give commands that must be applied black and white to our culture, to expect the Bible to address everything in our culture in a black and white fashion is simply ridiculous. There are some things the Bible expects us to exercise wisdom, understanding the intent of the text, and then seeking to accomplish that in our situation.

Thus, there is a sense in which I believe that linguistic pragmatics is not just interesting; it is essential if we are to understand exactly what the scriptures intend, and if we are to be freed from these kinds of simplistic legalistic systems. These kinds of systems do not help us know God; they distort our views of him, because of they ignore crucial aspects of language such as linguistic pragmatics, and, in this case, understanding how these commands relate to the value system of the entirety of scripture. Such, I fear, will do terrible spiritual damage to many people, and grossly distort their view of God and his word.

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3 Responses to “More on Pragmatics and the Christian Patriarchy Movement”

  1. Richard Says:

    Calvin viewed Christian liberty as an appendage to the doctrine of justification, he viewed it as that important. I think fear plays a big part in this–we think people will go haywire if we tell them there are certain issues which require they use their God-given wisdom. Also, as T. David Gordon has pointed out, we are not a very wise people, and the media we use daily hinders our ability to think wisely on issues. It’s easier to tell people what to think and how to vote–this is what the medieval Catholic Church did; it’s amazing the evangelical and in some cases the Reformed Church has reverted to this–and derogated natural revelation.

  2. Richard Says:

    By the way, Adam, I read your comments on the American Vision blog, and they are right on. My experience, though, is you are wasting your breath–I have learned that from my experience from dealing with my theonomist friend from church. My pastor advised me to not bother reasoning/discussing with him–it was wise advice.

  3. otrmin Says:

    Richard,

    Yes, wisdom is one of the big issues with me. People want black and white answers to these problems, and it just doesn’t work that way. For example, I think a lot of the problems with the patriarchy movement come from the fact that they want their children to turn out Godly, and these ways are presented as *the* Biblical way. Hence, if you just follow this formula outlined by the Duggars or the Botkins, you will have one big happy family. That is way too simplistic, but parents buy into it, because they want their children to turn out to be Godly men and women. However, good parenting requires wisdom, and, although there are do’s and don’ts, many times it requires wisdom to understand what to do in a particular situation.

    As to your second point, ordinarily I would say that, yes, it is a waste of time. However, on American Vision’s blog, the comments are going to be there for all to see. What I am saying is that I am doing all of this for the benefit of others who may be interested in these ideas, and happen to come across the dialogue in the comment boxes. Yes, it would be great of those guys repented of their lack of wisdom, and realized the ridiculous nature of what they were saying. However, I am not doing it for them. I am commenting for those who have ears to hear. Who knows how many people are being pushed in their direction by those same arguments, and they subsequently find answers to those arguments in those comments section, and see that the other side is not giving answers, and it prevents them from doing something grossly unwise. That is why I find it helpful to engage in those kinds of discussions where everyone can see.

    God Bless,
    Adam

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