Persis Lorenti Outs Herself

She Rejects Role Relationships
of Men and Women

Persis Lorenti has outed herself. Her concern is not just the misreading and misuse of the Biblical texts that teach the submission of woman to man in home and church. No, she rejects the whole concept of role relationships of men and women in home and church. She objects to the teaching of God-ordained distinctions in role relationships between men and women grounded in creation, marred by sin, redeemed but not reversed by Christ. I was not surprised to find her express this view at her own Blog Tried by Fire, but nothing but the word "shock" can describe my reaction to seeing it re-published at the The Aquila Report. (Full disclosure: I may be taking my life in my hands by saying that, because six days a week I work for TAR, searching without regard to my own views but for materials they might want to published.)

She writes of male-female roles as compared to the roles of officers and men in the armed services:
On first hearing though, the concept of roles may sound reasonable. We readily accept that people have different roles such as those found in the military. But you quickly run into a logical problem. A person may have the rank of private, but he/she may be promoted up the chain of command. Likewise an officer may be disciplined and demoted. Thus role is not inherent to the person.

In support of her view she quotes from Kevin Giles' book The Rise and Fall of the Complementarian Doctrine of the Trinity:
A parallel cannot be made with the complementarian-hierarchical view of women. In this case, because a woman is a woman, and for no other reason, she is locked into a permanent subordinate role, no matter what her abilities or training may be. Who she is determines what she can do; her sexual identity determines her role… Once we ask why this is so, we must infer some permanent inability in women. It has to be understood that a woman essentially lacks something given only to men; in some way she herself is a subordinate person. Introducing the sociological term role in this argument for the permanent functional subordination of women does not negate the fact that women because they are women and for no other reason, are subordinated. Against its usual connotations, the word role is recast in essential terms. Cleverly worded phraseology cannot avoid this fact. If a woman’s role is not essential to her nature or being, then it can change. If it cannot change because it is basic to her nature or being as a woman, then it is not just a role she performs… The assertion of equality remains just that – an assertion… Construed in this way there is no way to meaningfully maintain the claim that women are created equal.
Who is to blame for the introduction of the term "role relationships" to describe the roles (sorry, I can't think of a better word) of men and women in church and home? Dr. George W. Knight, III, and his book The New Testament Teaching on the Role Relationship of Men and Women

Here, I must offer and apology/explanation. I have not had my library for several years. In my library I had the book to which Persis refers, Dr. Knight's academic commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, and a book on the New Testament gift of prophecy in which he engages and answers Dr. Wayne Grudem's view.

Dr. Knight is responsible for more than the introduction of the term "roles" to describe how men and women relate in home and church, but for introducing into evangelicalism an heretical doctrine of the Trinity. According to Ms. Lorenti:
In the first chapter of The Rise and Fall of the Complementarian Doctrine of the Trinity, Kevin Giles traces the origin of the Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) in evangelicalism.1 He cites The New Testament Teaching on the Role Relationship of Men and Women by George Knight III as the source of this error. 
I believe this is wrong. Knowing God by Dr. J.I. Packer was published before Knight's book. I recall reading a portion of that book and writing in the margin "subordinationism?". I was not long out of seminary and my impression was that what Dr. Packer wrote was contrary to the Christology I had learned in seminary. (Knowing God remains one of the most important books I have ever read, including the chapter on the Son of God in which what I believe the error is taught.) I don't think Dr. Packer was by any means the first evangelical to speak of some kind of subordination in the ontological relationships of the Persons of the Trinity. But Dr. Packer wrote first and his book has been far, far more widely read that Dr. Knight's.

Ms. Lorenti goes on:
ESS (ed. note: Eternal subordination of the Son) creates a double problem. It messes with the ontology of God and the ontology of Man. The doctrine of the Trinity has been divided into Persons with inherent differences in their essence – the Father having authority and the Son being submissive. But in turn, humanity has also been subdivided as well with authority as an essential attribute of men and submission for women. 
Giles writes that “Before Dr. Knight wrote, the modern word “role” had never been used to speak of the essential difference between men and women or of the essential difference between the divine three.”3 Knight may have been the first to use that expression for both humanity and the Trinity,  but I was pretty sure he was not the first regarding men and women. Guess what I found in Fascinating Womanhood ©1963 by Helen Andelin?...
This deserves a few notes: 

1. First, let's dispose with this. Ms. Lorenti seems hung up on finding some connection between the Mormon, Helen Adelin's book on womanhood and complementarian teaching on (forgive me) roles of men and women. I was ordained to the ministry in 1972, and, while I have heard and read much about men and women in the home and church, I never heard of the Andelin book before. Let's see if this parallel works: Ms. Lorenti's view of the ontological equality of the Father and the Son (which view I share) derives from the Roman Catholic Church which handed down to us Protestants the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.

2. It seems to me that those engaged in discussions and controversies about the role of women all want to introduce the doctrine of the Trinity in support of their views. Tim Bayly wants to ground the relationship between men and women in "the eternal economic subordination of the Son." ("Eternal economic subordination" seems to me a logically contradictory term. If it's an eternal relationship, how can it not be ontological?) But it appears to me that Ms. Lorenti (and others), who rejects the complementarian view, makes a logical leap to a conclusion that is not warranted: If you believe that the ontology of humanity involves the subordination of women to men in home and church, then you believe in the eternal subordination of the Son. This is a classic example of the non sequitur. I would appeal to both sides to deal with the relevant Scripture passages, but leave the Trinity out of it.

3. I have noted above that I no longer have Dr. Knight's book, but I was able to find an article available on the internet, The Role of Women in the Church. He says this about the relationship between men and women, explicitly denying an intrinsic inequality:
Our survey begins in Genesis 1:27, where the creation account says that God made Adam and Eve, male and female, in His own image. They were created essentially equal: as holy bearers of God’s image before the fall, after it as sinners equally in need of redemption, and, as we read in Galatians 3:28, as spiritually equal receivers of God’s salvation. Peter speaks of this last point plainly, teaching that the wife is an heir of the gracious gift of life with her husband, or a fellow heir of the grace of life (I Peter 5:7). Nothing in the Apostles’ teaching indicates that men are intrinsically superior to women, even in marriage or the life of the church. To the contrary, each must submit to the Lord and each must respond and relate to the other as God has ordained. Because of their essential equality, Paul and Peter call on wives to submit voluntarily to their husbands as the loving heads of their families. Husbands are not called to require their wives to submit to them, but must rather themselves submit to God, and graciously, lovingly, and tenderly lead and guide their wives and families in the love of the Lord (I Peter 3:7; Ephesians 5:23-33). Husbands are to be neither harsh nor bitter (Colossians 3:19). 
Why is it that the two towering figures in the New Testament, Peter and Paul, use almost identical words when writing about marriage? Why do they describe the husband’s place as one of leadership or headship? The answer lies in their awareness that in His creation activity, God Himself determined who shall lead in marriage and the church. Paul establishes this principle in three passages.

 4. What does Dr. Knight say in this article about the Trinity?
The other major argument that Paul uses in this passage is based upon the relationship between the Father and the Son: “the head of Christ is God.” Consequently, we find Jesus during His earthly ministry repeating words to this effect, “I didn't come to do my own will. I didn't come to speak my own words. I came to do the will of Him who sent me and to say what He gave me to say.” Did that role demean Christ's Sonship? Did it detract from His full deity as the Incarnate One? Was it any cause for shame or reproach? The answer is absolutely no. But God in revealing this relationship between the Father and the Son, has said to us for all times, “I require you to relate as men and women as we also relate as Father and Son. I am not imposing upon either of you, males or females, a demand that we do not manifest in our relationship to one another as Father and Son.” Hence we see that both the order established in creation and the voluntary submission of the Son provide the model for how men and women ought to relate within marriage.
Does Dr. Knight believe in the ontological subordination of the Son? I do not know. But nothing he writes in this article requires that we identify him with this view: "The other major argument that Paul uses in this passage is based upon the relationship between the Father and the Son: 'the head of Christ is God.'"Consequently, we find Jesus during His earthly ministry repeating words to this effect, “I didn't come to do my own will. I didn't come to speak my own words. I came to do the will of Him who sent me and to say what He gave me to say.” Did that role demean Christ's Sonship? Did it detract from His full deity as the Incarnate One?" All of that I quote is entirely consistent with the view the orthodox church has of the subordination of Christ - the voluntary economic subordination of the incarnate Son to the the Father in order to accomplish the work of redemption. 

St. Paul writes:
Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).
He is writing about the Messianic Sonship of Jesus Christ. He reigns now as the victorious, ascended Christ (Messiah). This Messianic reign will continue until everything, save God himself, is brought into submission to him. When all is in submission to him, that will be the end, and he will hand the Messianic kingdom over to God the Father, and he will submit his Messianic Kingship to God, that God (including the eternal Son and eternal Spirit along with the eternal Father) may be all in all. There is an economic submission of the incarnate Son to the Father during his ministry on earth that continues even now as he sits at the right hand of the Father as the conquering Lord to whom all things must be brought into submission. But, when he was an ovum in Mary's womb and now when he is a King on the throne, he is the eternal Son of God, of the same divine nature as the Father, equal in power and glory. When the whole of redemption is accomplished the Messianic Kingship will, as it were, disappear and God shall be all in all.

The present relationship between men and women in the home and the church is based on creational ontology. Men and women really are different, and that extends to their "roles." What will be their ontological relationship in the resurrection? I don't know. But it appears the distinction between the sexes will end (no marriage says our Lord). How will all that work out? I don't know. We'll have see. But it will be very good. And we will all be happy whatever roles God assigns us in the eternal kingdom. Being there as someone who collects the trash will be good enough for me.

For now what we must note with regret is that Persis Lorenti rejects any God-ordained differences regarding authority and submission in the relationship between men and women in home and church.

Persis, The Not-So-Bad-Old Days

Persis and the Problem of Perspective

If I could chose any decade in which to be a young adult, it would be the 1940s. Glenn Miller and his "String of Pearls," a real man like Humphrey Bogart who could give it and take it, sultry Lauren Bacall who knew how to whistle, profane General Patton who could win, Admiral Bull Halsey, Winston Churchill, hotel dining rooms, sleeping compartments on trains, a "good war," national purpose and unity to defeat two common enemies, black and white movies, Casablanca, soldiers in uniforms, stylish women in fur coats, sophisticated men in suits. To engage in this fantasy I have to block out a lot of things - like the depression which got worse till the beginning of the War, the blood and gore of battles in the European and Pacific theatres, the segregated armed services, the Jim Crow south, the Japanese internment camps, the hostility toward German Americans, the men who never came home unless it was to be reburied after the war ended. 

It's the curse of old men like me to romanticize, idealize, misremember, and normalize the past. The past becomes the good old days, so much better than the present. I can't really remember the 40s, so for me the good old days would have to be the 50s and 60s. 

Only the 60s weren't so good. There was good - hormone driven youth, the beach, some friendships that have lasted, dragging the main, parking behind the Martines' sign, the Pensacola Theological Institute, love that parents couldn't suppress nor many waters could quench. But then: hippies with flowers in their hair; acid in their brains, and free love in the parks; civil rights, street riots, and murders in Philadelphia, MS; political and societal unrest and a sexual revolution; the draft, deferments, lottery numbers; high school and Sunday school classmates whose names would eventually be on that Wall, God is dead, the generation gap. 

I tend to think that the 60s are the decade when things started to go to hell. 

But that brings me to Persis Lorenti and her Blog, "The Not-So-Good-Old Days" which was republished at the Aquila Report where I read it. Persis seems to have come to look at American culture and history through glasses which focus on those she calls "the privileged class" who are the only ones for whom the old days were good. It is the curse of people who have come to analyze history and culture through filters of "privilege" and "oppression" to see both everywhere.  
If you go back before the 2nd wave of feminism, this was prior to the 1965 Immigration Act. It would have been extremely difficult and perhaps impossible for members of my family to immigrate and become American citizens. I can’t speak for my African American brothers and sisters, but have you ever asked them if they, their parents, or grandparents considered Jim Crow the good old days?
The Victorian era ideal has been passed down through the years as the standard for Christian women. Who would have been able to devote themselves to full-time domesticity? Only the privileged white upper and growing middle class, and this was only made possible by female slaves or servants. Again ask your African American brothers and sisters if they thought these were the good old days.
The Victorian era was the time when the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act was pased. Chinese men were permitted visas as cheap labor. Women were denied entry because the last thing Americans wanted was for Chinese to marry, have families, and, God forbid, become citizens. We were considered unassimilable and denied citizenship because we weren’t white. In a time of economic hardship, we were blamed for taking away jobs from the “real” Americans. The Chinese population was eventually driven from the country in 1882. You may think that this was in the distant past, and I am just over-reacting to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Read the rhetoric coming from the leaders of the anti-Chinese movement. It sounds the same to me.
There seem to be at least three things are at work here: (1) As a Christian woman Persis feels oppressed by the adoption of "the Victorian era the standard for Christian women." (2) As a person of Chinese ethnic descent, she feels aggrieved by the United States' treatment of the Chinese during the Victorian era in regard to limitations on immigration for those in China and of discrimination toward those who were here. (3) As a woman and a Chinese person, she identifies with African Americans who had been slaves and who lived under Jim Crow in the Victorian era. 

She is clearly wrong about some things:

(1) "Who  would have been able to devote themselves to full-time domesticity? Only the privileged white upper and growing middle class, and this was only made possible by female slaves or servants." But there was a time when "full-time domesticity" was common among all classes of people, and it was not the privilege only of those who had slaves or servants. There were plenty of families in which the man worked and provided for his family, and the wife stayed home and "kept house," caring for the children, cooking meals and cleaning house without the yet to be invented electric tools and appliances. These women had full time domestic jobs. My maternal grandfather worked for the Standard Oil distributor, sometimes doing office work, other times driving a truck and delivering products. My grandmother washed his clothes in a wringer washing machine, starched his uniforms which dried on a clothesline, ironed those heavily starched cotton pants and shirts, cooked a full meal for them to eat at noon when he came home for "dinner," raised my mother, polished furniture, grew flowers, picked up and shelled pecans, killed chickens and put them in the freezer. You can say all that was bad, but it certainly was not the life of a privileged class. 

But let me ask this about Victorian values and domesticity: Where is any serious minded American Christian advocating Victorianism? For one thing, it would ruin their sex lives.  

(2) Yes, the Chinese were not allowed to immigrate for a very long time, and those here often experienced discrimination. It's legitimate to ask, prejudice aside, whether there was not a legitimate concern about how quickly and efficiently America could assimilate the Chinese. But today, in the case of the Chinese, it has to be asked, "What has any of that to do with now except to manufacture a present grievance from a past offense?" The Chinese in the U.S. today are the largest group of those classed Asians. And Asians, according to Pew:
... are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the U.S, with Asians now making up the largest share of recent immigrants. A Pew Research survey finds Asian Americans are more satisfied than the general public with their lives, finances and the direction of the country, and they place a greater value on marriage, parenthood, hard work and career success.
 I do not know Ms. Lorenti, but I would guess there is a good chance she not only belongs to a privileged group but herself shares in those privileges to a greater extent than Caucasian Americans. 

(3) Yes, slavery and segregation were evils. Sadly the end of both has not brought about the improvement in the lives African Americans which we might have expected. In some moral matters which have an impact on society, things have got worse. Dr. Thomas Sowell writes:
Nearly a hundred years of the supposed “legacy of slavery” found most black children being raised in two-parent families in 1960. But thirty years after the liberal welfare state found the great majority of black children being raised by a single parent. 
The murder rate among blacks in 1960 was one-half of what it became 20 years later, after a legacy of liberals’ law-enforcement policies. Public-housing projects in the first half of the 20th century were clean, safe places, where people slept outside on hot summer nights, when they were too poor to afford air conditioning. That was before admissions standards for public-housing projects were lowered or abandoned, in the euphoria of liberal non-judgmental notions. And it was before the toxic message of victimhood was spread by liberals. We all know what hell holes public housing has become in our times. The same toxic message produced similar social results among lower-income people in England, despite an absence of a “legacy of slavery” there.
Dr. Walter Williams writes:
In 1940, 86 percent of black children were born inside marriage, and the illegitimacy rate among blacks was about 15 percent. Today, only 35 percent of black children are born inside marriage, and the illegitimacy rate hovers around 70 percent. Today's breakdown of the black family is unprecedented. It began in the 1960s with the War on Poverty... 
Blacks hold high offices and dominate the political arena in Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New Orleans and other cities. Yet these are the very cities with the nation's most rotten schools, highest crime rates, high illegitimacy rates, weak family structure and other forms of social pathology. I am not saying that blacks having political power is the cause of these problems. What I am saying is that the solution to most of the major problems that confront many black people won't be found in the political arena... 
Why have things not got better? Drs. Sowell and Williams lay much blame at the feet of the welfare state. I do not doubt they are right. 

But, I think there is another contributor. It is multi-culturalism. Multi-culturalism not only posits that all cultures have value and can contribute to the common culture but that all cultures are equal. Until recently the United States was a Western country. It's predominant culture was western civilization (modified and enriched by others). Public schools were the effective conveyors of this civilization, along with patriotism, and thus the means of assimilating various national and ethnic groups to a common American culture. The big issue to today is not color or race (though grievance promoters say so) but culture. To believe that that western civilization is superior to any intellectual and cultural tradition yet produced by mankind, and the most influenced by Christianity, is not racism. It's culturalism and the obvious truth.

W.C. Fields and Christian Women

Looking for a Loophole

When W.C. Fields, the humorist and atheist, was dying in a sanitarium, a nurse was surprised to find him reading the Bible. When she asked him what he was doing, Fields wisecracked, "Looking for a loophole." I get the impression that looking for a loophole is what some evangelical women are doing as they confront Apostolic writings about women in relation to men in home and church. I am thinking in particular about Ephesians 5:22-24,33; 1 Peter 3:1-6; 1 Timothy 2:9-14.

Persis Lorenti has published a curious Blog, "The Andelin Connection?"  in which she wonders how different the teaching of some conservative evangelical teaching about man, woman, and marriage is from the the teaching of the book, Fascinating Womanhood, by Mormon authoress Helen Andelin. Ms. Lorenti writes:
If you ignore the Mormon foundation, how different is Andelin's teaching from the Christian women's books that followed? How many of those demand complete obedience from wives regardless of whether their husbands are leading the family into ruin? How many forbid women from correcting their spouses or even offering a different opinion? How many teach that their job is to silently submit and let God do the adjusting? All the while demands are put on the subordinate party in this power differential for the ultimate well-being of the marriage. But if you look at the Bible, who has ever been given a pass on accountability based on chromosomes? Since when did a role place a person on a higher plane than his peers such that only God is able to correct and no one else? I can't think of anyone. Nathan called David out for his sin. Paul confronted Peter to his face. James condemned the sin of partiality. What about the "one-anothers" in the New Testament that call for mutual encouragement and admonishment?
She notes that two of the most egregious offenders of Paige Patterson and James Dobson and expresses her concern that their teaching and similar teaching creates a culture in which wife abuse can be excused:
But this has also created a perfect environment for abuse to fester – absolute obedience from one party while the other is under no accountability. So a woman’s only recourse is to try more. Pray harder. Submit more. Don’t nag. Cajole him and appeal to his better nature. [9] Sound familiar? Given Andelin’s influence in shaping the ideal conservative American woman, is it any wonder that abuse has slid under the radar? Tragically, these ideas still lives on today. All you need to do is read the counsel victims often receive within professing Christian circles. Two of the most egregious examples come from Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Seminary, and James Dobson.
What would Ms. Lorenti like to do with her hunch that there is not much difference between Mormon teaching and conservative evangelical teaching?
If I had the time and the resources, I would survey the body of Christian women's books that followed in the wake of Fascinating Womanhood. I would analyze their content with respect to male veneration and lack accountability, the burden of female responsibility, co-opting Victorian gender stereotypes as biblical, and the degree with which marriage is idolized elevated. My hunch is that I would find ideas that can be traced back to Helen Andelin's influence. If anyone wants to take this idea and run with it, you have my blessing, and I will gladly buy your book. But if this is indeed the case, then we need to take a hard look at what is being taught in the name of Christian marriage and womanhood. How much is truly biblical, and how much is Mormon?
Checking out Ms. Lorenti's Blog on the counsel given to women, at her Blog, "Tried by Fire," I was surprised but not surprised to find Ms. Lorenti's connection with Barbara Roberts, Jeff Crippen, and A Cry for Justice about whose unbiblical views I have written before:

Here's my guess about what is going on: There is a loosely connected group of evangelical women who...

 (1) are concerned about wife abuse and whether the church does enough for abused women or may even be complicit in the abuse, 

(2) either promote or are open to the view that the abuse which gives grounds for divorce is not only physical but may include such things as a husband's angry or demeaning speech and his having a controlling personality,

(3) tend to look on the obligations of married persons as reciprocal so that if a husband does not fulfill his duties to love, nourish, and living in an understanding way with his wife, she is not obligated to fulfill her duties of submission,

(4) think women's voices have not been but need to be heard, heard with respect, and taken seriously in the church on matters of theology, policy, etc.

(5) for these reasons and others are looking at the Biblical texts about submission, home and church life, and divorce and wondering if the church may have not rightly understood and applied these texts in the past and may be influenced more by culture than exegesis in its understanding of male and female roles.

In other words, Do the texts mean what the seem to mean? 

Let me offer a suggestion to Ms. Lorenti. Rather than look for parallels between the teaching of 20th and 21st century conservative evangelicals and Mormons, it might be better to look for parallels between these conservative evangelicals and our fathers in the faith:

Augustine on nature and Scripture: 
Nor can it be doubted, that it is more consonant with the order of nature that men should bear rule over women, than women over men. It is with this principle in view that the apostle says, "The head of the woman is the man;" and, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands." So also the Apostle Peter writes: "Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord."

Luther on marriage as it ought to be: 
Married folk are not to act as they now usually do. The men are almost lions in their homes, hard toward their wives and servants. The women, too, everywhere want to domineer and have their husbands as servants. It is foolish for a man to want to demonstrate his masculine power and heroic strength by ruling over his wife. On the other hand, the ambition of wives to dominate the home is also intolerable. 
Calvin on 1 Peter 3:1,2:
He proceeds now to another instance of subjection, and bids wives to be subject to their husbands. And as those seemed to have some pretense for shaking off the yoke, who were united to unbelieving men, he expressly reminds them of their duty, and brings forward a particular reason why they ought the more carefully to obey, even that they might by their probity allure their husbands to the faith. But if wives ought to obey ungodly husbands, with much more promptness ought they to obey, who have believing husbands. But it may seem strange that Peter should say, that a husband might be gained to the Lord without the word; for why is it said, that “faith cometh by hearing?” Romans 10:17. To this I reply, that Peter’s words are not to be so understood as though a holy life alone could lead the unbelieving to Christ, but that it softens and pacifies their minds, so that they might have less dislike to religion; for as bad examples create offenses, so good ones afford no small help. Then Peter shews that wives by a holy and pious life could do so much as to prepare their husbands, without speaking to them on religion, to embrace the faith of Christ. While they behold. For minds, however alienated from the true faith, are subdued, when they see the good conduct of believers; for as they understood not the doctrine of Christ, they form an estimate of it by our life. It cannot, then, be but that they will commend Christianity, which teaches purity and fear. 

Just for fun, she might go back to the 1960s and find out what Burt Bacharach thought, as sung by Jack Jones:

Recently I was driving and listening to Rush Limbaugh (if D.G. Hart can listen to Rush, so can I), and a young stay-at-home mom called. I cannot remember her exact words but she expressed her desire to to have a traditional marriage in which her husband was the head and she followed his leadership. I felt sorry for her as I thought: "Women are going to kill her - and some of them will be evangelicals."

As always the challenge for the church and all Christians is to hear the Word of God as he speaks in Scripture.