No, I'm Not a Chauvinist and I Don't Wear Wife Beaters

Fat Guys Look Bad in Them

Marlon Brando, Streetcar Named Desire
Supposedly the attribution of "wife beater" to the sleeveless
undershirt has its origin in the role of Marlon Brandon in the
movie version of Tennessee Williams Streetcar Named Desire.

Since I published this Blog, my friend Rachel Miller, kindly has informed me that the decisions, which she approves, to publish her friend Dr. Valerie Hobbs, were made, not by her as the News Editor at The Aquila Report, but by the Editor. I appreciate this clarification and additional information while retaining my surprise that the decisions were intentionally made to publish an academic feminist and social/ecclesial egalitarian. 

My Blogger friend, Rachel Miller, has published at her Blog, A Daughter of the Reformation  (1/18), and republished aThe Aquila Report (1/24), where she serves as News Editor, No, I'm Not a Feminist or an Egalitarian. 

Apparently someone(s) has called her both names, and she finds it personally hurtful, inaccurate, misleading, and perhaps sinister. She writes:
Words are powerful, as are labels. They can be helpful. They can be used to encourage and build people up. But they can also be used to dismiss others. They can be used to belittle and discourage. 
When a conservative calls someone a feminist, it can be an attempt to question the person’s faith and commitment to Scripture.
Feminist doesn’t mean “a woman I disagree with and wish she’d stop talking.” Egalitarian doesn’t simply mean “someone who thinks women can have opinions about theology.”
I’m not a feminist. I’m not an egalitarian. What I am is tired of the name-calling and the attempts to silence me and others like me. No doubt those who need to hear these words the most are the least likely to listen. But I hope that those who are tempted to believe the lies about me will do me the honor of considering what I’ve written here.
Let me make clear at the outset a couple of things: 

(1) I know this falls into the "I have black friends" category, but I am married to a very strong woman. Anyone who really knows her would acknowledge that. Years ago, when she was serving as an administrative assistant, she and the other members of the staff took one of those "work personality" tests. The test identifies the predominant characteristic of the staff member according to the DISC formula: dominant, people influencer, steady, and competent. She was a "high D." Now combine that  high D with a high C (get all your ducks in a row), and you've got the woman who has been my wife for 48 years. Believe me, just as in The Naked City, so there are 8 million stories in a marriage that joins two "High Ds." 

(2) I am, at least in the circles in which I have been, a relatively liberal conservative. For instance, we Episcopalians use lectors who read the Scriptures (except for the Gospel). At the last Christmas Eve service of lessons and carols I planned I used all women lectors (and all of them did better than than the usual male lectors). Had I remained as vicar, I would over time have sought to introduce the practice of using women as regular Sunday lectors. 

(2) I do not believe I have ever suggested that Rachel Miller is a feminist or egalitarian. I have no judgment about that, and take her word that she does not believe herself to be either.

(3) What I do know is that she publishes both feminists and egalitarians. To cite one example: Mrs.Miller publishes Dr. Valerie Hobbs who is both a feminist scholar and a social-ecclesial egalitarian. Dr. Hobbs' writes in her latest post at The Aquila Report
But there are also those in the church who have confused strength with dominance. At this crucial moment, as the Christian church considers how to resist and reject rampant toxic masculinity around and among us, men would benefit not from ‘manning up’ but from looking for inspiration in an overlooked place: the sacrificial strength of Christian women. As Penny Long Marler contends, “As the women go, so goes the church.” 
She goes on to offer a new 21st century "dynamic equivalent" translation of 1 Corinthians 16:13,14. She writes: "Consider therefore how Paul’s metaphor might translate to all our ears today:"
Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like women, be strong (emphasis added).
Let all that you do be done in love.
To cite another example, Mrs. Miller has published at The Aquila Report articles such as Headship is Not Hierarchy which takes the typical egalitarian view that headship in the New Testament means "source" and not "authority."   
The husband isn’t the boss, the commander, the chief, the king. All of that belongs to Christ. Rather, the husband is the head, and she is the body. He is to nourish, cherish and love her as his body, because she is his body. That’s the point. To ask the question, “But isn’t he still in charge?” is to miss the point entirely. Do you think that she will turn into a harpy if you neglect to command her for a day? Whom did you marry? Is she not also an heir of eternal life and a firstborn son of God in Jesus Christ?

While I accept Mrs. Miller's assertion that she is neither feminist nor egalitarian, I must ask, What is one to make of the association between the authors and content Mrs. Miller publishes and Mrs. Miller's own views?

Let's look at Mrs. Miller's denials and affirmations. She writes:
Why would anyone think I’m a feminist? Let’s consider my beliefs (which I’ve stated before.) I hold to the following beliefs regarding men, women, and gender:
      God made man: male and female in the image of God 
      In Christ, male and female are equal before God
  • Husbands are called to sacrificial, servant leadership of their wives, loving them as Christ loves the church
  • Wives are called to voluntary submission to their husbands, submitting to them as the church submits to Christ
  • Ordination is restricted to qualified men in the church
  • Marriage is between one man and one woman, ideally for life
  • Men and women need each other and depend on each other
Take particular notice of what I believe about leadership and submission in marriage and ordination in the church. Those right there set me apart. I’m not a feminist. I’m also not an egalitarian, closet or otherwise. I have respect for the egalitarians I know. I appreciate the work some egalitarians have done defending the Trinity. But we have significantly different interpretations of what the Bible teaches about marriage and ordination.
There is NOTHING here with which I find myself required to disagree. I would ask a few questions for clarification.
1."God made man: male and female in the image of God." Does this include the inspired implications drawn by the Apostle Paul from God's creation of man and woman?        
For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man (1 Corinthians 11:8,9).
 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve...(1 Timothy 2: 12,13). 
2. "In Christ, male and female are equal before God." True (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). But does this remove the functional differences in this world, including the rule of males in the home (husbands) and the church (officers)? 
3. "Husbands are called to sacrificial, servant leadership of their wives, loving them as Christ loves the church." Yes, but are husbands by implication from the text also called to leadership of their wives, though not by way of compulsion? And are husbands charged by the Apostle to love their wives conditionally or unconditionally? In other words, what if she turns out to be hard to love? Is he still under obligation to love her or not?
4. "Wives are called to voluntary submission to their husbands, submitting to them as the church submits to Christ." Does "voluntary" submission mean "if they wish" or does it direct a wife as part of her being "in Christ" to submit to her husband without being compelled to do so? Is the charge to submit conditional or unconditional? Does a wife submit to her husband only if, as she sees it,  he makes good decisions and gives wise leadership? If he proves himself dumb as a post, is she freed from the Apostolic command?
5. "Ordination is restricted to qualified men in the church." Does this restriction include the functions of the ordained offices or only the status of ordination?
6. "Marriage is between one man and one woman, ideally for life." Of course, but what if the marriage is not ideal? Under what circumstances or upon what grounds is divorce allowed according to the divine revelation about the institution of marriage?
7.  "Men and women need each other and depend on each other." Indeed.

We believe Mrs. Miller identifies herself as a non-feminist and non-egalitarian, and so we shall regard her. However, there is this question to be asked: What is the significance of Mrs. Miller's, as news editor at The Aquila Report, publishing feminists and egalitarians? Two cases in point: (1) She has frequently published Dr. Valerie Hobbs. Dr. Hobbs is a feminist scholar and a social-ecclesial egalitarian. I have quoted and responded to Dr. Hobbs a sufficient number of times at this Blog for that to be clear. (2) She publishes articles such as Headship is Not Hierarchy in which Sam Powell argues that headship has to do with origin, not authority. This is the same argument that was being made in the 70's by feminists, both male and female, in order to explain that the Apostles never intended to imply that a husband, as head, has authority in marriage. 

Again, OK, Mrs. Miller is not a feminist-egalitarian. But she publishes and promotes feminist-egalitarians. Several years ago, Mrs. Miller wrote an article about Protestants doing such things as wearing vestments, observing Lent, and practicing a Eucharistic liturgy, If It Looks Like Rome... . What if what one publishes what not only looks like but are feminist-egalitarian authors and content? 

Mrs. Miller moves on from feminism to complementarianism and egalitarianism. She no longer regards herself as a complementarian. (As I understand the coining of the term "complementarian" was negatively an effort not to use the misleading word "patriarchy," a decision that makes Tim Bayly mad as a hornet. Positively it was an effort to describe the man, Adam - woman, Eve, the husband-wife relationship in terms of the creation account: "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'” Genesis 2:18.)

Mrs. Miller tells why she is no longer comfortable with calling herself a complementarian:
So then the question is, am I a complementarian? I used to think so. I used to call myself one.  After all, I believe that husbands are the spiritual leaders of their families. I believe that wives should submit to the leadership of their husbands. And I believe that ordained church leaders should be qualified men. Isn’t that a complementarian?Apparently not. To be a true complementarian, you also need to believe: 
  • women were created to be submissive, responsive, soft
  • men were created to be leaders, providers, strong
  • men are supposed to be priests for their families
  • women are supposed to be at home and not in the workforce (unless there’s a really good reason, but even then)
  • divorce is wrong even when there is biblical justification for it
  • the eternal subordination of the Son, especially as it is applied to men and women
  • all women are rebellious feminists at heart and men must put down that rebellion (an interpretation of Genesis 3:16)
She goes on to state her beliefs and in the process to say again that she is not an egalitarian:
How do I know this is necessary for true complementarianism? Well, when I disagreed with these beliefs, I was called a “soft,” “thin,” or “anorexic” complementarian. I was also called a closet egalitarian or a feminist because: 
  • I questioned what CBMW taught about men and women and the Trinity
  • I defended orthodox Trinitarianism against the eternal subordination of the Son
  • I raised questions about the ESV translation for changing the wording of Genesis 3:16 and 4:7
  • I wrote about abuse as biblical grounds for divorce
  • I believe women can be leaders in business and politics or even cops and umpires
1. It is regrettable that the doctrine of the Trinity has been introduced into the discussion of how men and women should relate to one another. On the one side there is a defense of what I believe to be historic Nicene Trinitarianism. The Father and the Son are co-eternal and co-equal in their ontological relationship ("the same in substance, equal in power and glory"). However, as the Messianic-Son, the second Person of the Trinity voluntarily subjected himself to the Father in order to accomplish the work of redemption (called by some "the economic Trinity"). But what is the purpose of this restating of the doctrine? It is to say that the eternal relations of the Father and the Son are reflected in the man and woman relationship so that, as the Father and Son are equal in their Godhood, so  men and women are in their humanity. (One thing I have not seen - and I may have missed it - is, if the Father and Son are equal in eternity but the Son is subordinate in redemption, then are men and women to be equal in the eschaton while women are subordinate in this world and time?)

On the other side, there is defense of a form of Subordinationism. While the Father and Son are equal, both being fully God, in eternity and in the ontological relationship there is some kind of Father-Son relationship with the Son "naturally" subordinate, fulfilling the role of Son to the Father. The economic relationship does not exist only in time but also in eternity. This subordination of the Son in eternity also serves a purpose in the debate about men and women. It is argued that the relationship of the Father and Son is reflected in the male-female relationship. Man and woman can be equal in created dignity and redemptive blessings, while woman is subordinate to man. Just like the Father and the Son.

But, I contend that the doctrine of the Trinity - remember there are three not two equal Persons - is mostly irrelevant to the debate about man and woman. God made us in his image, but God is also a wholly other Being. The eternal relations of the Persons of the Trinity are unique to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. These relations are eternal and and ontological (having to do with essential Being) relations within the Trinity. 

Why can't there be two debates? One debate is about the relationship between males and females, husbands and wives. Here we can talk about patriarchy, egalitarianism, complementarianism, and all the subjects that arise when we seek to account for all the Holy Scriptures say about men and women.

The other debate is about the Being of God and the relationships of the Persons of the Trinity. Here we can talk about Adoptionism, Subordinationism, Arianism, and about Nicene, Chalcedonian, and Athansian Trinitarianism. When we discuss the Trinity we talk about the Being of God and the relations within God, the Holy Trinity.

2. It seems to me that there is an over-reaction to the revision of the ESV text at Genesis 3:16. So great is Mrs. Miller's distress that she and her family have abandoned the ESV and returned to the NASB (Saying Farewell to the ESV). The issue is this: the original translation of Genesis 3:16 reads: "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." The revised text reads: "Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you." In the one case wives have desire for their husbands - probably a result of the Fall and described in various ways such as excessive dependence upon the husband - but, rather than responding positively to the wife's desire (need?), the husband sinfully rules over his wife. In the other case there is a an underlying conflict in the relationship, the wife sinfully asserting her will against her husband, and the husband asserting his will, often in sinful ways, to bring her into submission. 

Mrs. Miller calls the revision an "interpretation." It is an interpretation in the same way the original reading is an interpretation. The question for Hebrew scholars, linguists, stylists, and all involved in translation is, "What does the Hebrew text say?" I am not such a scholar, so I have nothing to say about the two possible translations. What I will say, based on 45 years of ministry, is that I have seen the dynamics of the husband-wife relationship work out according to both readings of the text. 

3. Mrs. Miller has written about abuse as a ground for divorce. Depending on the definition abuse, she would find little disagreement. If a spouse's abuse results in the abused spouse's leaving the home, then the abusive spouse has caused a separation which amounts to desertion. It was not long ago that, if you said a man was an abusive husband, you meant that he physically attacked and was a threat to the physical safety of his wife. It appears that is no longer the case. What concerns me is Mrs. Miller's definition of abuse. She has published Barbara Roberts and and written a commendatory review of a book by Jeff Crippen on abuse, divorce, and remarriage. Here is their definition of abuse found at the website A Cry for Justice:

What is Abuse?

The definition of abuse: A pattern of coercive control (ongoing actions or inactions) that proceeds from a mentality of entitlement to power, whereby, through intimidation, manipulation and isolation, the abuser keeps his* target subordinated and under his control. This pattern can be emotional, verbal, psychological, spiritual, sexual, financial, social and physical. Not all these elements need be present, e.g., physical abuse may not be part of it.

The definition of domestic abuser: a family member or dating partner (current or ex) who has a profound mentality of entitlement to the possession of power and control over the one s/he* chooses to mistreat. This mentality of entitlement defines the very essence of the abuser. The abuser believes he is justified in using evil tactics to obtain and maintain that power and control.
You could drive a Mack truck named "Divorce" though that opening. Is this Mrs. Miller's definition of abuse?
4. Mrs. Miller believes that  "women can be leaders in business and politics or even cops and umpires." I agree. My only concern is if a woman can call the strike zone.
As for me, I have a bigger problem. Last night I managed to burn the expensive salmon Mrs. Smith got from her fish monger yesterday.

1. Men's close fitting, ribbed, sleeveless white cotton undershirt most commonly used before T-shirts came into vogue as undergarments. It is named wife beater after Marlon Brando's character, Stanley Kowalski, who wore one during much of the movie version of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire." Stanley proved to be a sloppy, drunken, ill-tempered brute who beat his wife. 

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