Sunday, December 30, 2007

Come some ye faithful

I thought I'd write a Christmas Carol expressing many people's actual views:

O come, some ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him,
Born the King of angels;
O come, let heterosexuals adore him,
O come, let heterosexuals adore him,
O Come, let heterosexuals adore him, Christ the Lord.

God of God,
Light of Light,
Lo! he abhors not the Virgin's womb:
He abhors just most other woman
Very God,
Begotten, not created;

O come, some ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him,
Born the King of angels;
O come, let the married men adore him,
O come, let the married men adore him,
O Come, let the married men adore him, Christ the Lord.

Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye republican citizens of heaven above;
Glory to God
In the highest;

O come, some ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him,
Born the King of the USA;
O come, let Republicans adore him,
O come, let Republicans adore him,
O Come, let Republicans adore him, Christ the Lord.

See how the shepherds,
Summoned to his cradle,
Leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;
We too will thither not very hard
and Bend our joyful footsteps;
This be the last child of unmarried parents we need ever care about.

O come, some ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
If you can afford the plane
then Come and behold him,
Born the King of angels;
O come, let the middle class adore him,
O come, let middle class adore him,
O Come, let middle class adore him, Christ the Lord.

Child, for us sinners
Poor and in the manger,
We would embrace thee, with love and awe;
Who would not live thee,
Loving us so dearly? Refrain

O come, some ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him,
Born the King of angels;
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O Come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord over all the right people.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Wikipedia and church discipline

Wikipedia is an interesting case study in the church discipline model, since the documentation is entirely public. Obviously wikipedia is not a church and doesn't have a particular religious philosophy. However they are a social organization which is large enough to need a bureaucracy and a governing structure. Moreover, Wikipedia seeks a wide body of contributors.

Further the judicial system quite explicitly is not focused on "determination of guilt" and takes pride in the fact that it doesn't offer a full fledged due process. The focus is on restoration of the offender to editing not enforcement.

That is like a church:

  • They can't or won't "vet" members before they join
  • They don't have any capability to punish misbehavior in the "real world".
  • Maintaining status within the group is extremely important for contributors.
  • They need large amounts of voluntary service.
  • This service needs to be provided in an organized fashion and under the control of leadership
First off just as within the church there is a hierarchy of position based on your knowledge and willingness to apply policy (discernment in Christian terms). And just as in a church there are members and members with clout.
The Matthew 18 process works through stages very similar to those used by churches with its is a very heavy use of social sanction:

The first state as per Matthew 18 is a private confrontation usually on an article or personal talk page. After that other people get involved in the disagreement. For the proce
ss to proceed further there needs to be a consensus or strong majority (excluding the "trouble maker"). If this is achieved then there is a more broad based public complaints: administrators notice board, RFC (request for comment), mediation. All directed at trying to bring them back into compliance. Finally arbitration the focus is on their refusal to be good in the consensus building stages and not not the underlying issue). Again this is like a church where the focus is on unrepentant sin. Finally the penalty stage where the most common penalty is excommunication which they call a ban.

For readers of this site I'd recommend looking at the arbitration committee hearings and following backwards. Meatball wiki is an entire wiki dedicated to the topic of community rule and how to encourage behavior.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

350th Anniversary of the Flushing Remonstrance

The NYTimes had an editorial on this but today is the 350th Anniversary of the Flushing Remonstrance which was a predecessor to the 1st amendment protections. Its nice to see how far back the tradition of tolerance really goes. See this site dedicated to this key event.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A defense against Patriarchy (part 6)

In part5 of our series we dismissed once and for all the possibility the patriarchy was the teaching of the church through time. However having developed the background and the methodology in the previous sections it is worth raising one more argument against patriarchy in this section. The patriarchist argument is that patriarchy was the norm up until the last century, that this norm was accepted by the population and especially by the churches and it is only with the rise in feminism that people's opinions have changed and more importantly church doctrine become confused. Now, if that were true, that is if patriarchy or anything like it was the norm, then we would expect to see a patriarchal analysis of feminism when feminism first emerges. That is we would expect to see feminism rejected as a non Christian doctrine and only slowly infiltrating Christianity. So we turn to the time of the first generation of feminist both in Europe and in America and see what the reaction from the Christian leadership was.

Before examining the reaction however, it is worthwhile to set the scene. All of our previous sections had focused on Catholics. Here we can focus on Protestants. Luther and Calvin had changed the culture regarding sex and marriage for Protestants. Many of the themes we had explored in part5 continue. As concubinage decreases in popularity and unmarried men and woman are close to the same age prostitution explodes in popularity during the late 15th century. It continues to be seen as an institution which protects the virtue of woman in general by diverting men's sexual appetites away from virgins and married woman. Moreover it allows for priestly celibacy to continue to be practiced.

Luther and Calvin however are appalled by these practices and they responded by launching a major attack on prostitution. Luther primarily focused on changing the culture of tolerance especially with respect to priests. Rather than seeing virginity as a blessed state, being unmarried, especially for men who had been married, was seen as inadvisable and marriage became the norm. Calvin continued this trend and launched a major legal offensive against prostitution and adultery. Adultery became grounds for divorce (with remarriage) in practice, prostitution became a capital crime and men who frequented prostitutes were punished (see Adultery and Divorce in Calvin's Geneva by Robert M. Kingdon for a discussion of Calvin's reformation of Geneva's sexual and marrtal codes). In the counter reformation the Catholic church agreed that the problems that existed 800 years earlier (see part4) no longer exist and the Council of Trent eliminated concubinage (see catholic encyclopedia's entry on concubinage for details).

The effect of all of this is that by the late 18th century when our story starts, both Catholics and Protestant live in a society where men and woman fall in love and marry in their late teens with vows and intentions on engaging in a partnership involving sexual exclusivity, joint property, no dowry and raising children together. Woman do not work outside the home, while men often do, or they run a business from the home. This means that a woman's standard of living depending quite heavily on how effective she was in attracting a man with economic potential during her mid to late teen years. Consequently woman's education focused on the art of seduction. A man's standard of living, however, depended on his earning's potential and thus his education was practical focused on developing economic skills.

During the French revolution this situation began to be examined critically by political philosophers. In 1789 the Women's Petition to the National Assembly was written. This document outlined a series of steps the national assembly would need to take to create equality between men and woman. The list was:

The National Assembly, wishing to reform the greatest and most universal of abuses, and to repair the wrongs of a six-thousand-year long injustice, has decreed and decrees as follows:

  1. All the privileges of the male sex are entirely and irrevocably abolished throughout France;
  2. The feminine sex will always enjoy the same liberty, advantages, rights, and honors as does the masculine sex;
  3. The masculine gender (genre) will no longer be regarded, even grammatically, as the more noble genre, given that all genders, all sexes, and all beings should be and are equally noble;
  4. That no one will henceforth insert in acts, contracts, obligations, etc., this clause, so common but so insulting for women: That the wife is authorized by her husband before those present, because in the household both parties should enjoy the same power and authority;
  5. That wearing breeches will no longer be the exclusive prerogative of the male sex, but each sex will have the right to wear them in turn;
  6. When a soldier has, out of cowardice, compromised French honor, he will no longer be degraded as is the present custom, by making him wear women's clothing; but as the two sexes are and must be equally honorable in the eyes of humanity, he will henceforth be punished by declaring his gender to be neuter.
  7. All persons of the feminine sex must be admitted without exception to the district and departmental assemblies, elevated to municipal responsibilities and even as deputies to the National Assembly, when they fulfill the requirements set forth in the electoral laws. They will have both consultative and deliberative voices . . . ;
  8. They can also be appointed as Magistrates. There is no better way to reconcile the public with the courts of justice than to seat beauty and to see the graces presiding there;
  9. The same applies to all positions, compensations, and military dignities. In this way the French will be truly invincible, when their courage is inspired by the joint themes of glory and love; we do not even make exception for the staff of a marshal of France; so that justice can be rendered equally, we order this instrument to be passed alternatively between men and women;
  10. Nor do we hesitate to open the sanctuary to the feminine sex, which has so long rightly been referred to as the devoted sex. But since the piety of the faithful has noticeably diminished, said sex promises and obligates itself, when it mounts the chair of truth, to moderate its zeal and not make excessive demands on the attention of the audience.
In 1791 the Declaration of the Rights of Woman was written which was similar in content. By 1793 the French woman's movement tied itself to the "bread and constitution" wing of the revolution (see Graham, Loaves and Liberty for more on this). That is woman were challenging the revolutionary leadership's failure to end hunger, as this impacted poor woman the most. The net result was that the violence of the revolution was turned against the woman's political parties, they folded and thus by 1795 salon culture was reborn as a way to achieve some degree of woman's political activity without the threat of counter violence.

In 1805 the achievements of woman in the revolution were mostly eradicated, via. the Napoleonic code of law (see also wikipedia). However, in terms of our discussion the Napoleonic code provides very useful evidence and thus our first stopping off point. The Code represents the thinking of the conservative religious authorities towards woman, marriage and sexuality. That is we have an explicitly right wing religiously conservative document from over two centuries ago and this document does not support the patriarchal position in several crucial respects.

Firstly, it takes the position that consent to marry is mandatory and cannot be provided for by parents or guardians. It goes so far as to allow persons of sufficient legal age to contract marriage with or without parental consent; though it does require their notification and time for consideration of parent's ability to speak prior to 30. Finally, conception plus intent constitutes marriage regardless of parental opinion (Book I, Title V French legal code of 1803).

Secondly, the state reserved the right to freely intervene in family matters. To pick an important example, contracts were a family matter, that is the wife's signature bound the husband fully and the contract would remain in effect even after her death or a divorce. For this reason, the Napoleonic code did not grant married woman the freedom to contract directly (215), that is they needed to get the consent of either a judge or their husband to contract (218). Unmarried woman of legal age, widows, and divorces had full contractual rights. So while this is very unequal it falls short of patriarchy's position that only men should be entitled to legally contract. Moreover those restrictions that did exists were seen as deriving from the authority of the state and could be withdrawn modified or overruled by the state. That is the state had a relationship with all the individuals, there was no notion of "federal representation", woman were fully citizens.

Third, divorce was normalized in a way very similar to what amounts to the "fault" divorce system that existed in the United States prior to the 1960s. Divorce with right of remarriage, could occur for adultery, outrageous conduct, criminal act or mutual consent (Book I, Title VI). Either party had the right to separate during the time when their divorce was being tried (and the wife was entitled to alimony during this separation). Finally both parties needed to provide for the children (child support) and unless otherwise agreed, marital property was split evenly with the wife being entitled to alimony.

While these laws are more conservative than the ones today, they fall far short of what patriarchy prescribes. That is the conservative religious establishment of the late 18th and early 19th century agrees with the complementarians on their view of the proper legal and moral relationships between husband and wife. The views that the patriarchs argue for were not the norm up to a century ago, but rather died out during the dark ages (see part4 of this study for details on what marital policy looked like during the early-mid middle ages).

Finally it should be understood how much the code differs from modern ideas. The Napolianic code was focused on the preservation of property, and was a bold reassertion of the state's ultimate right to regulate marriage. That is the religious conservatives of the day were supporting the state not the church as the proper vehicle for arbitrating morality. The Jacobin marriage doctrine had been a reaction and rebellion against church marriage; the Napoleonic code was a rejection that the state had any need of a church to regulate marriage. And looking across the entirety of the code the Napoleonic code was a rejection that the state needed a church for anything. The Napoleonic system was mainstream, conservative and middle class in its protections of property. But its usurpation of religious and familial authority to the state is something that the patriarchs would reject at least as strongly as most Americans. They will find no support for their theology from the most influential conservative movement of the day.

In this it was seen, even at the time, as perhaps more insidious than the Jacobian laws had been. The idea of a state church with its coercive power was now thoroughly discredited, a state regulated system was one alternative as per the above. So at this point we turn to the English speaking world where an alternate idea emerged to state regulation. This ideas was that individuals should be entitled to a moral code free of civil regulation. The state should ensure that society was orderly but as much as possible individuals should be making moral choices for themselves. This doctrine was popular among a group of people who supported the right of all men to vote regardless of property ownership. They called themselves radicals in honor of a speech by Charles James Fox where he urged a radical reform of the electoral system. So radicalism became the name for English speakers that supported the goals of the French revolution, if not necessarily the means. William Goodwin (discussed more below) defined the beliefs as:
  • People should only be judged on their abilities.
  • War should only be allowed to protect a country's liberties or the liberties of another country.
  • Colonialism is immoral.
  • Democracy is more efficient than other forms of government, as it allows everyone to voice their opinion, rather than centralising power in a fallible monarch. However, majority rule places individual liberty of those in the minority in jeopardy.
  • Government close to the people is best.
  • Individuals should give to others in need.
  • Rehabilitation should be provided for criminals.
  • One should have a sphere of private judgment over issues that do not threaten the security of other people, as opposed to the legislated Christianity of his time.
  • Censorship prevents the truth from being recognized and should only be used when there is an immediate security risk.
With respect to our topic a specific application emerged, that marriage should be regulated by individuals and coercive marriage laws should be abolished. This doctrine was called "free love".

In 1792 a proponent of this doctrine, a woman by the name of Mary Wollstonecraft wrote a treatise on woman's education. The book was entitled A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and in it Wollstonecraft noted that in educating woman to be effective in seduction they were being educated in a way which prepared them for the life of a mistress rather than the life of a wife:
The education of women has, of late, been more attended to than formerly; yet they are still reckoned a frivolous sex, and ridiculed or pitied by the writers who endeavour by satire or instruction to improve them. It is acknowledged that they spend many of the first years of their lives in acquiring a smattering of accomplishments: meanwhile, strength of body and mind are sacrificed to libertine notions of beauty, to the desire of establishing themselves, the only way women can rise in the world--by marriage. And this desire making mere animals of them, when they marry, they act as such children may be expected to act: they dress; they paint, and nickname God's creatures. Surely these weak beings are only fit for the seraglio! Can they govern a family, or take care of the poor babes whom they bring into the world?

If then it can be fairly deduced from the present conduct of the sex, from the prevalent fondness for pleasure, which takes place of ambition and those nobler passions that open and enlarge the soul; that the instruction which women have received has only tended, with the constitution of civil society, to render them insignificant objects of desire; mere propagators of fools! if it can be proved, that in aiming to accomplish them, without cultivating their understandings, they are taken out of their sphere of duties, and made ridiculous and useless when the short lived bloom of beauty is over*, I presume that RATIONAL men will excuse me for endeavoring to persuade them to become more masculine and respectable.

Pleasure is the business of a woman's life, according to the present modification of society, and while it continues to be so, little can be expected from such weak beings. Inheriting, in a lineal descent from the first fair defect in nature, the sovereignty of beauty, they have, to maintain their power, resigned their natural rights, which the exercise of reason, might have procured them, and chosen rather to be short-lived queens than labour to attain the sober pleasures that arise from equality. Exalted by their inferiority (this sounds like a contradiction) they constantly demand homage as women, though experience should teach them that the men who pride themselves upon paying this arbitrary insolent respect to the sex, with the most scrupulous exactness, are most inclined to tyrannize over, and despise the very weakness they cherish. (chapter 4)
Wollstonecraft argued further that this style of woman's education distinct from a man's was crippling them both morally and intellectually:
I have turned over various books written on the subject of education, and patiently observed the conduct of parents and the management of schools; but what has been the result?--a profound conviction that the neglected education of my fellow-creatures is the grand source of the misery I deplore, and that women, in particular, are rendered weak and wretched by a variety of concurring causes, originating from one hasty conclusion. The conduct and manners of women, in fact, evidently prove that their minds are not in a healthy state; for, like the flowers which are planted in too rich a soil, strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty; and the flaunting leaves, after having pleased a fastidious eye, fade, disregarded on the stalk, long before the season when they ought to have arrived at maturity. One cause of this barren blooming I attribute to a false system of education, gathered from the books written on this subject by men who, considering females rather as women than human creatures, have been more anxious to make them alluring mistresses than affectionate wives and rational mothers; and the understanding of the sex has been so bubbled by this specious homage, that the civilised women of the present century, with a few exceptions, are only anxious to inspire love, when they ought to cherish a nobler ambition, and by their abilities and virtues exact respect. (Introduction)
That is teaching woman to be a sex toy and secondarily a mother led to a waste of a woman's talents. The woman thus skilled only in being appealing to men as a seductress would not even be able to be appealing as a wife. She went on to argue that a woman educated in practical matters and able to assist her husband in practical matters would lead to woman being valued for their virtues and not their physical beauty and seductive behavior. This was a moral argument which Christians of the day responded to and understood. The first edition sold out immediately, the book was rerun in England, released in the United States and then translated and published in French. It was reviewed in numerous magazines and to received strong praise. The most official source is the inquisition supervised Diaro de Madrid (September 6, 1792). The Diaro de Madrid article address the sexual politics of Vindication (the review does not discuss the republican political positions in the book). Julian de Valesco one of the two co-editors of the heavily distributed Diaro de Madrid writes the review, in it he upholds Wolstonecraft's position that virtue is more than a superficial attitude and that both sexes are capable of real virtue. Moreover de Valesco goes even further and argues that woman having no respect for themselves by lack of education are incapable of true love of men and of their children. (see Sally-Ann Kitts, Mary Wollstonecraft's "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman": A Judicious Response from Eighteenth-Century Spain Modern Language Review, 89:2 (1994:Apr.) p.351)

Wollstonecraft held woman to moral and rational standards demanding that they understand that the virtues of beauty and childlike behavior are unlikely to sustain a man's interest for a lifetime.
My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their FASCINATING graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone. I earnestly wish to point out in what true dignity and human happiness consists--I wish to persuade women to endeavor to acquire strength, both of mind and body, and to convince them, that the soft phrases, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste, are almost synonymous with epithets of weakness, and that those beings who are only the objects of pity and that kind of love, which has been termed its sister, will soon become objects of contempt. (Introduction)
To encourage a marriage based on a lifetime of shared values and common aims, Wollstonecraft argued for a doctrine she called "free love". And again she used the term to mean a belief that the state should cease regulating marriage and thus allow individual men and woman to decide on who they should marry that is to choose their own spouses. The book ends with a call on men to assist the woman in their lives into becoming help meets rather than playthings. The method for doing this is to extend to woman the rights of men so that the virtues of men would be theirs.
I then would fain convince reasonable men of the importance of some of my remarks; and prevail on them to weigh dispassionately the whole tenor of my observations. – I appeal to their understandings; and, as a fellow-creature, claim, in the name of my sex, some interest in their hearts. I entreat them to assist to emancipate their companion, to make her a help meet for them! Would men but generously snap our chains, and be content with rational fellowship instead of slavish obedience, they would find us more observant daughters, more affectionate sisters, more faithful wives, more reasonable mothers – in a word, better citizens... Asserting the rights which women in common with men ought to contend for, I have not attempted to extenuate their faults; but to prove them to be the natural consequence of their education and station in society. If so, it is reasonable to suppose, that they will change their character, and correct their vices and follies, when they are allowed to be free in a physical, moral, and civil sense. Let woman share the rights, and she will emulate the virtues of man; for she must grow more perfect when emancipated, or justify the authority that chains such a weak being to her duty. (conclusion )
And again this book received support at the time from the religious establishment, they agreed with Wollstonecraft's analysis; an analysis today that would be seen as complementarian (at least), that is the religious leadership supported what is arguably the first feminist book, in its claim that woman's oppression led to sin not virtue.

This is an absolutely key point in terms of refuting the patriarchal position regarding the reaction of the religious establishment towards woman's rights and feminism and so it bears repeating. A well known radical, the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Men, which was seen as the definitive radical response to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (the leading conservative book of the day) had written a political treatise on woman's rights and the conservative religious establishment of the day had seen this as acceptable and had endorsed it even though they profoundly disagreed with the author on her other political opinions and social opinions. That is to say they saw her moral arguments on the effects of woman's education as perverting the role of woman as being essentially conservative and read the book in a conservative light. And this book is arguably the first feminist book in the English language we are talking about, so the evidence in and of itself shows the exact opposite of what Bayly, Phillips, Wilson, et al. claim occurred. When confronted with complimentarian writings even from a source they otherwise would have despised conservatives of the late 18th century agreed with the viewpoints expressed.

While vindication was written in 1792, somewhere between 1795 and 1797 Wollstonecraft began an affair with a leading radical who was arguably the inventor of political anarchy named William Godwin (mentioned above). In 1797 pregnant with Godwin's baby Wollstonecraft and Godwin married. The child, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born the August the 30th, however the mother caught sepsis (an infection) from the birth and died on the 10th of September. Almost immediate after her death Godwin began writing a memoir in honor of his wife, Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. When Memoirs was published in 1798, because of its author and his sentiments, it tied Wollstonecraft's book much more closely to the radicals politically. Further the book was quite open about Godwin's feelings and about his wife's personal life: discussing her lesbian relationships, her dramatic mood swings, her earlier half marriage to Gilbert Imlay (American adventure, author of the Daniel Boone legends and US ambassador to France). The effect was that after 1798 Wollstonecraft and the emerging woman's rights movement was identified with the hard left in England and at least among conservatives Vindication of the Rights of Woman was all but forgotten. Richard Polwhele's The Unsex'd Females is typical of the attacks on Wollstonecraft's followers that came from Memoirs, attacking them for their pro-French views implying that support for French politics meant support for French sexual morality and irreligion:
15: I shudder at the new unpictur'd scene,
16: Where unsex'd woman vaunts the imperious mien;
17: Where girls, affecting to dismiss the heart,
18: Invoke the Proteus of petrific art;
19: With equal ease, in body or in mind,
20: To Gallic freaks or Gallic faith resign'd,
21: The crane-like neck, as Fashion bids, lay bare,
22: Or frizzle, bold in front, their borrow'd hair;
23: Scarce by a gossamery film carest,
24: Sport, in full view, the meretricious breast;
25: Loose the chaste cincture, where the graces shone,
26: And languish'd all the Loves, the ambrosial zone;
In 1814 the sixth coalition fell in 1814 and thus English radicalism as a political philosophy died. And in reaction against the revolutionary philosophies of the day conservatives spread the Napoleonic code throughout the world, creating a the modern western legal codes we have today. Property was paramount and families were ruled by husbands, but woman had rights assured by the state and moreover those rights that existed for men should be granted to woman providing they were not too disruptive to property. Napoleon himself near the end of his life realized it was the code not the first French republic that would be his legacy. The following quote of Napoleon's is a freeze etched into the walls of the USA's Supreme Court, "My true glory is not to have won 40 battles . . . . Waterloo will erase the memory of so many victories . . . . But what nothing will destroy, what will live forever, is my Civil Code." The debate between left and right would now center on which rights and the proper balance of rights between individual liberty (in particular woman's) and preservation of family property.

Daughters of Albion, pictureIf the Civil Code represented the conservative position one might ask what was the liberal position? This was represented by the romantics who inherited Wollstonecraft after the 1798 expose. The image opposite is from Blake's Visions of the Daughters of Albion (see also wikipedia entry), where he translates into poetry and literature Wollstonecraft's political ideology. What Blake was expressing in this image is how convention leads to bondage and misery.

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin had by virtue of her parentage been exposed to Godwin's circle and the birth of romanticism however she earned her seat at the table, in addition to taking her mother's name she had also taken her literary talent, she would later invent the horror novel. Moreover, she shared her Mother's taste in brilliant radical husbands so in 1814, at the age of 16 Mary eloped with Percy Bysshe Shelley (one of the great lyrical poets, of that or any age). Percy Shelly was part of Godwin's circle and brought Mary (now Mary Shelley) into the circle as an adult member rather than the daughter of two of its founders. Free love moved away from being a philosophy regarding the right for a marriage free of state interference, since The Civil Code provided for that and thus it was no longer an issue. Instead the second generation of the free love movement focused on the right of individuals to organize their personal lives however they saw fit, in particular with regard to sex. So for example, the Shelley's engaged in swinging, and their sexual experimentation went so far that Mary's step sister Claire Clairmont shared their bed for a time, and questionably was the birth mother of one of their daughters, Elena Adelaide Shelley. The romantics also continued the Jacobin tradition of concern for the oppressed, embracing advocacy for state support charities (the welfare state) and ethical vegetarianism. While the circle revered Wollstonecraft the liberal position's emphasis was on sexual experimentation and atheism, a focus woman's political and educational rights was seen as stodgy. That is they essentially justified the attacks in The Unsex'd Females.

That is debate was between romanticism with its vision for a new society with heroic individualism as its guiding principle, and a conservatism that embraced woman's education and sought to constrain woman only in so far as their advancement undermined the family. The position the patriarchs take, not only was not the norm but in fact was not even represented by either group. Or to put this another way, the core ideas of complimentarianism had been accepted almost immediately and universally as soon as they were introduced and the debate centered on how best to resolve conflicts between individual liberty and family responsibility. Since romanticism was arguing through the arts the debate was held within literature and the conservative response to Shelley, Blake and Bryon was Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth. Austen's books had their focus was on how best to balance financial concerns against love, honor and self respect. There was no denial that these were the choices woman faced in Austen, nor was there any attempt to argue that woman should be joyful about having to sacrifice the one for the other. While Edgeworth focused much more on relationships between classes, she explicitly identified her writing with Wollstonecraft in expecting rationality and education from woman (see The Victorians and the Eighteenth Century: Reassessing the Tradition By Katherine Turner, Frank O'Gorman).

In 1837 Fourier coins the term féminisme for woman's liberation utopian socialist movements. He argued that the habit of oppression is developed in the home from family relations, and children taught to oppress woman would have no compunction about oppressing the lower classes when they became adults. In England the term was immediate applied to the romantics and other left groups that were opposing the use of mass starvation as part of maintaining control over Ireland, which led to the Potato Famine. The right often referred to the left with the term radical since these left movements had evolved out of the radical parties of 40 years earlier. Hence the original meaning of "radical feminist" were people that lived in socialist communes that focused heavily on woman's right in the Europe of the 1830s and 40s. The term then spread to anti-imperialists that supported woman's rights.

And now we can after five and a half parts cross the Atlantic and look at the first generation of American "feminism". Swedenborgianism, a form of Christianity which held to racial and sexual equality explodeded in popularity and migrated to America in 1817. The free love movement (right of woman to choose their own spouses) becomes popular in 1825 (see Free Love: Marriage and Middle-Class Radicalism in America, 1825-1860 by John C. Spurlock for a discussion of Free Love in pre civil-war America). The core support for the Free Love movement among conservatives came from the following chain of reasoning: The sins that most men conducted: drinking, whoring, gambling, fighting... occurred in evenings spent outside the house. Men fled there homes generally because their marriages were stale or hostile. Loving marriages with supportive families would vastly diminish sin. And thus American Christianity began to focus on how to build good quality marriages. And what they found time and time again as the root cause of the problems in a marriage was that the woman had been coerced by her parents into marrying a man whose personality was incompatible. George Henry, "If the wife did not make the home pleasant the husband will tend to stay away. When when the love of home is gone, the man is lost. Lost, that is in vice."

Among mainstream protestants during the period 1800-1830 the Second Great Awakening was occurring. That is American protestantism was moving the population away from its Anglican / Episcopalian and Presbyterian roots to a Baptist and Methodist theology. So again our patriarchs are split. Wilson and Bayly's ancestors would have been those targeted in the 2nd great revival. Conversely Phillips' ancestors would have agreed with the attacks on extra congregational authorities (being a baptist) and Gothard explicitly identifies his ministry as a continuation of Charles Finney's (Finney's image is at the top of this article).

Finney is credited by both opponents and advocates as the man who made American Christianity distinctly American. He rejected the 5 points of Calvinism but moreover shifted the focus of his ministry from Christ to each individual overcoming their sins, "Separate from sin to achieve salvation whether drink or human bondage". Of particular concerns to our story was the sin of masturbation. For Finney, masturbation came from a habit of idleness, that is to seek gratification without labor. This habit, was born and cultivated by effects of usurpation of labor from blacks and women. So Finney's abolitionism and woman's rights support was not only in terms of social redemption but also in terms of individual redemption. A man was individually displeasing to God when he disenfranchised his wife, and moreover the sins of disenfranchisement would often lead to sexual sin. So while Free Love had been accepted a generation earlier as leading to virtue, the ties between abolitionism, woman's rights and Christianity formed under Finney. Finney also opposed drinking strongly, and the trio of abolitionism, woman's rights and temperance would characterize many of his followers.

At the same time presbyterian southern religious establishment came to see all three issues as part of the attack on Calvin. The quote below from Dabney, while 35 years after the period we are talking about makes these ties explicit:
The movement towards the preaching of women does not necessarily spring from a secular "woman's rights" movement. The preaching of women marked the early Wesleyan movement to some extent, and the Quaker assemblies. But neither of these had political aspirations for their women. At the present time, however, the preaching of women and the demand of all masculine political rights are so synchronous, and are so often seen in the same persons, that their affinity cannot be disguised. They are two parts of one common impulse. If we understand the claim of rights made by these agitators, it includes in substance two things: that the legislation at least of society shall disregard all distinctions of sex and award all the same specific rights and franchises to women and men in every respect; and that women, while in the married state, shall be released from every form of conjugal subordination and retain independent control of their property. These pretensions are indeed the proper logical consequences of that radical theory of human right which is now dominant in the country. According to that doctrine, every human being is naturally independent, owes no duties to civil or ecclesiastical society save those freely conceded in the "social contract"; is the natural equal of every other human except as he or she has forfeited liberty by crime. Legislation and taxation are unjust unless based on representation, which means the privilege of each man under government to vote for his governors. If these propositions were true, then, indeed, their application to women would be indisputable. And it would be hard for the radical politician to explain why it was right to apply them in favor of ignorant negroes and deny their application to intelligent ladies. We here see the great danger attending the present misguided woman's movement. (The Public Preaching of Women, Southern Presbyterian Review October, 1879).
Finney encouraged the priesthood of the believer to become for each believer a quest within scripture to find the truth. And this created an establishment in which woman could write of their own biblical interpretations in which woman's oppression was not part of Christianity. Finney allowed for female revivalists, that is woman preaching. Those woman interpreted scripture in ways that didn't support male headship:
Let us next examine the conduct of this fallen pair, when Jehovah interrogated them respecting their fault. they both frankly confessed their guilt. "The man said, the woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I did eat. And the woman said, the serpent beguiled me and I did eat." [Gen. 3:12]. And the Lord God said unto the woman, "Thou wilt be subject unto thy husband, he will rule over thee" [Gen 3:16]. That this is not allude to the subjection of woman to man is manifest, because the same mode of expression is used in speaking to Cain of Abel [Gen. 4:10-12]. The truth is that the curse, as it is termed, which was pronounced by Jehovah upon woman, is a simple prophecy. The Hebrew, like the French language, uses the same word to express shall and will. Our translators having been accustomed to exercise lordship over their wives, and seeing only through the medium of a perverted judgment, very naturally, though I think not very learnedly or very kindly, translated it shall instead of will, and thus converted a prediction to Eve into a command to Adam; for observe, it is addressed to the woman and not to the man. The consequence of the fall was an immediate struggle for dominion, and Jehovah foretold which would gain the ascendancy; but as he created them in his image, as that image manifestly was not lost by the fall, because it is urged in Gen. 9:6, as an argument why the life of man should not be taken by his fellow man, there is no reason to suppose that sin produced any distinction between them as moral, intellectual and responsible beings. Man might just as well have endeavored by hard labor to fulfil [sic] the prophecy, thorns and thistles will the earth bring forth to thee, as to pretend to accomplish the other, "be will rule over thee," by asserting dominion over his wife. (Sarah Grimké, Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, Letter I: The Original Equality of Woman, 1837)
The traditionalists countered with opinions which limited the scope of the Golden Rule:
It is clear, then, that our Saviour, by His Golden Rule, never intended to establish so absurd a law. The rule of our conduct to our neighbour is not any desire which we might have, were we to change places; but it is that desire which we should, in that case, be morally entitled to have. To whatsoever treatment we should conscientiously think ourselves morally entitled, were we slaves instead of masters, all that treatment we as masters are -morally bound to give our servants, so far as ability and a just regard for other duties enables us. (Dabney, Defense of Virginia p197).
So to repeat, far from rejecting woman's rights the Christian community split on denominational grounds and the membership by and large embraced them and advanced them in the first generation. They like their European counterparts saw in the woman's rights movement a moral cause. For American Christians of the early 19th century the promises of the declaration of independence should apply to all people and they divided on how best to accomplish that given a society with classism, sexual discrimination and slavery.

In 1831 the Unitarians form institutions explicitly to advance woman's rights (see The Early Feminists: Radical Unitarians and the Emergence of the Women's Rights Movement, 1831-51 by Kathryn Gleadle).

1848 is a good place to mark the end of the first generation of the woman's rights movement. No one after 1848 considers themselves to be in the first generation, which was our original question. What the evidence has shown so far is that the woman's rights movement not only was not attacked by Christianity in America, rather arguably it was key to America developing its own flavor of Christianity. While it most certainly the case that Christianity community was divided on the issue, the division was primarily on denominational grounds not a left right axis. Socialism became a potent political force after the 1848 revolutions, revolution of the petite bourgeoisie (the owners of small properties, merchants, shopkeepers, etc.) while in the United States it never achieved much support. However for many historians Seneca Falls (see also Declaration of Sentiments) is part of the American reaction to 1848 (see Bonnie Anderson NWSA Journal article). And at this point the American woman's movement is explicit in its demands for legal equality, in particular suffrage. Then in August 1848 members of the Liberty Party joined with anti-slavery members of the Whig Party to form the Free-Soil Party (in 1854 the Free-Soil Party renames itself the Republican Party). Which to say by the mid 1850s Finneyism was becoming mainstream enough to become governing philosophy of the United States.

In 1850 Finney became President of Oberlin College. Oberlin was active in the second great revival spirit and became the first college to admit blacks (1835) and woman (1837). He writes a systematic theology. 1850 sees the passage of the Fugitive slave act (see article). This act is passed to avoid disunion after Prigg v. Pennsylvania, and the effect of the law is to require northern government officials to help act as slavers, it also effectively eliminated most civil rights for free blacks. As a result support for abolition explodes across the North, a majority of the northern population no longer is willing tolerate slavery. So during the early 1850s the Finney revivalist religion is rapidly becoming the mainstream religion of the North. With the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 (which expanded the territory of slavery) a majority of northerners were willing to start contemplating war to put an end to the horrors of slavery.

Under Finney in 1853 Oberlin allowed Antoinette Louisa Brown, to complete the full course of study for ordination. Though they denied ordination, she became a Unitarian and became the first woman pastor in 1853. In 1863 the Unitarian denomination officially ordained Olympia Brown.

The Unitarians were active in other fronts as well. In 1855 the Lucy Stone / Henry Blackwell marriage occurs. A statement signed by Lucy Stone (first woman in Massachusetts to receive a college degree) and Henry Blackwell prior to their marriage. The Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higginson read the statement at the ceremony, and also distributed it to other ministers, making this a public declaration which moves public opinion further against a sexually biased legal code. Again it should be noted this is Christian religious leadership (though in this case the liberal Unitarian / abolitionist wing) that is promoting the idea:
While acknowledging our mutual affection by publicly assuming the relationship of husband and wife, yet in justice to ourselves and a great principle, we deem it a duty to declare that this act on our part implies no sanction of, nor promise of voluntary obedience to such of the present laws of marriage, as refuse to recognize the wife as an independent, rational being, while they confer upon the husband an injurious and unnatural superiority, investing him with legal powers which no honorable man would exercise, and which no man should possess.
We believe that personal independence and equal human rights can never be forfeited, except for crime; that marriage should be an equal and permanent partnership, and so recognized by law; that until it is so recognized, married partners should provide against the radical injustice of present laws, by every means in their power (1855 marriage protest)
By 1861 Southern and Northern Presbyterians split on slavery, which is to say in one generation Finney's position had moved from an external attack on Presbyterianism to an internal debate within Presbyterianism (see American Presbyterian website for a good summary). This is typical across all of American Christianity. 1850-1900 will be characterized by a desire to reform America to make it a pietistic country (see Third Great Awakening). Finney's influence extends even beyond mainstream Christianity and arguably his greatest influences are on those groups that will eventually become the Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses, as those groups remain theologically Finneyist to this day.

After the civil war the woman's rights movement split into three groups.
  1. The American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) was a purely a suffrage organization, and considered politically conservative. It supported the 14th and 15th amendments passing even without inclusion of the right to vote for woman, since otherwise it they might fail to pass at all. and felt that woman should focus on suffrage and thus opposed divorce liberalization (the suffragist wing)
  2. The National Woman's Suffrage Association (NWSA) was classic first wave feminism. Focusing on full legal equality, in particular divorce and work discrimination (the woman's rights wing).
  3. The radicals supported a Free love doctrines and spiritualism broke off from both Christian groups and ran Victoria Woodhull for president (feminist wing).
By 1873 the Woman's Christian Temperancy Union formed, that is an explicitly conservative (that is even further to the right of the AWSA) Christian feminist organization. The AWSA and the NWSA merge to form the NAWSA. Woodhull was attacked relentlessly by Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and by by the 1880s woman's rights had a conservative (WCTU) and moderate (NAWSA) political wing. The radicals were expelled and the moderates and the conservatives worked together. This is a key point in the defense against patriarchy, because here we see that the mainstream "feminist" leadership sought and achieved support from the Christian establishment and felt they had to attack their own ally (Woodhull and her party) to maintain that support.

So to summarize what we have shown. It is fair to say that reformed Christianity rejected woman's rights movement by slim margins. It is not accurate to say American Christianity did. Christianity in America became Armenian, and baptist primarily because of the immorality of major denominations to refuse to attack slavery, and in the case of reformed Christian establishment arguably its support for slavery. The attitude that men who would oppress woman would also oppress blacks was present in the 1830s as much as it is today. Just as Dabney argues that slavery is God's means of dealing with the moral degradation of the black race, it was understood that female servitude was God's means of dealing with the moral degradation of the female sex. Both arguments were utterly rejected by the vast majority of Christians, and those denominations that stood by them fell out of favor as a result.

Robert Lewis Dabney the great reformed theologian of his day makes this connection explicit:
It appears almost impossible for anti-slavery men to be made to apprehend the nature of the institution, as described in the words, 'domestic slavery.' Their minds, perverted with vain dreams of the powers and perfectibility of the State, cannot be made to apprehend that God has made other parties than the commonwealth and the civil magistrate, depositories of ruling power; and that this arrangement is right and benevolent. Now, it is the genius of slavery, to make the family the slave's commonwealth. The family is his State. The master is his magistrate and legislator, in all save certain of the graver criminal relations, in which the commonwealth deals directly and personally with him. He is a member of municipal society only through his master, who represents him. The commonwealth knows him as only a life-long minor under the master's tutelage. The integers of which the commonwealth aggregate is made up, are not single human beings, but single families, authoritatively represented in the father and master. And this is the fundamental difference between the theory of the Bible, and that of radical democracy. (Dabney, A Defense of Virginia, p228)
With that I think we should conclude. We have proven our point that the reactions to the woman's rights movements were split among conservatives and among Christians their responses was nuanced and situational, not blanked condemnation. Further the movement is much older than they claim.

See also:
Back to Introduction, Part 1 of Defense

Thursday, October 4, 2007

CREC and Membership (part 2)

This is a continuation of part1 of our interview regarding membership within CREC with Mike Lawyer. Mike is the administrator of Greyfriars Hall, teaches Biblical Pastoring, Bible Grammar, the third year recitation, and New Testament Greek. He is also an Associate Pastor of Christ Church and Doug Wilson’s Executive Assistant.

As per the previous section this was an "on the record" interview and permission is granted for redistribution with attribution. As per the last section the questions will be in green, and answers in black. However two of the questions required a second round of clarification and those will be in purple. Any additional information will be in blue. Again I would like to thank Mike and CREC for being willing to engage in this discussion. Its been extremely enlightening and they have been very forthright and helpful.


1) What about the issues of spiritual gifts? Do you believe that woman will never be better gifted to lead the home or in spite of them being more gifted the man should anyway?

I don't know what this question is asking. Could you ask it again?

The question is regarding spiritual gifts. Say for example the gift of prophecy or teaching or healing. The question was whether you believed that a woman will never have say the gift of being a talented preacher or that in spite of her being more gifted the man should lead a church anyone. Similarly with prophecy.

Again, I'm not sure of the question, but if you're asking if a woman who is a gifted teacher or preacher should submit her gifts to the clear teaching of Scripture, then yes I think she should. The clear teaching of Scripture is that a woman may not teach or exercise authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:12ff).

The gifts are given to us, but must be used in accordance with the rest of Scripture. This means, among other things, that a person does not get to use her gifts in a way that countermand other clear teachings of scripture.

This does not mean that a skilled and gifted woman cannot exercise those gifts at all. She simply needs to exercise them in areas of church life where she is not sinning in other ways. For example a woman gifted in teaching should teach her children at home. This is clearly a Scriptural principle (1 Timothy 5:4, 10, 14). Also, I believe it is a good thing for women to teach women. This too is a Biblical principle (1 Timothy 2:4-5).

This really has nothing to do with gifts at all. It has to do with godly roles in the family and in the church. God created roles that make the world work in certain ways when we abide by his decrees and when we try to do away with his commands in order to make ourselves "somebody" we stray from his way and have fallen into sin.
2) Most believe that in the bible both Jesus and Paul placed an obligation to follow God above the obligation to home for both men and woman. Do you agree with that assessment? For example in looking at the lives of many of the female saints, they disobeyed husbands, fathers and secular rulers in their desire to carry out what they saw as God's plans. [These two sentences split off in first response] Do you agree that woman can be called in this way? And if so how is that compatible with the view of membership as presented?
I would agree with the first part. Jesus said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-- yes, even his own life-- he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). So if the question is do I obey God or man, the answer is always, as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

The problem in the second part comes when you ask, what is God's will for my life or for the life of the wife in a family. The clear things of God are the ground for, and the lens through which we look at the unclear and subjective things claiming to be the will of God. The Scriptures are clear that the wife should submit to her husband (1 Pet. 3:1-6). The Bible says nothing about a man's wife going off to a convent or to start a TV ministry. Those might be nice things to do, but they are not as clear or obvious as how wife is to relate to her husband. If the husband is not trying to get his wife to sin, what he says fits under the authority of the specific passages on how a wife lives with her husband. So if Mr. Smith tells his wife that he wants her to stay at home and teach their children how to love God and serve him forever but she wants to go and be a muckety muck at the local hardware store, she will be in sin if she leaves the home to muck about; even if she claims that it is God's will. It is not God's will to go against what God has clearly laid out in his word. It is God's will to do what God specifically says, which in this case is to do what her husband has said.
[See note above]Do you agree that woman can be called in this way? And if so how is that compatible with the view of membership as presented?

I've lost you here too. Called in what way? To do what? And what does this have to do with membership?
These two sentences were part of the above. So the question is can a woman be called to server god in a way that would necessitate her disobedience to a husband a father or a secular leader? What it has to do with membership is that membership in the church is contingent on female obedience. So if you were agreeing that a woman could be called in this way, the membership rules could end up excommunicating a woman for obeying God's calls. Conversely if you had stated that a woman cannot be called in this way then the question asked what about the female saints who did disobey were they really not saints?
God's gifts never give a woman a reason to sin by not being respectful or submissive to her husband or the leaders in the church that God has placed over them. There have been, and currently are, many women who are living in sin because they have stepped into the holes in their lives left by husbands and male leaders who have abdicated their God given roles. But while the men's lack of leadership is sin, this is not a valid reason for women to jump onto the band wagon and join in the sinning.

When men lead in a godly, loving, and consistent way the women don't see any need to take up the reins and lead. So the answer to women leading isn't yelling at the women, it is yelling at the men. Men need to suck it up and gird up their loins and be godly, biblical men.

There are at least two problems with women filling the void left by their abdicating men: First, they are in sin when they usurp the leadership roles of their men (as I've mentioned above) and second, their jumping into the void almost certainly seals the fate of their men ever taking up the mantle of leadership. Once women get into leadership, men will not lead anymore (if they ever did in the first place). They may not be man enough to lead in the ways God has commanded, but they are man enough not to let their women lead. So, when they abdicate and the women jump in, the men back off and never come back.

So what is the answer? If the men won't lead, the women need to follow 1 Peter 3:1-6 and let the lights go out, the garbage pile up, the water run, etc. Don't take up his slack. Don't fulfill those things in the home that are his responsibility. Go on doing what God has called you to do and make sure that you pay special attention that part in 1 Peter 3 where it says "without a word." This means not a sign of discontent, not a word, not a glare, not a folded arms "hmmph", not a rolled eye, not a burnt toast. Without a word means let your glowing, godly life shine on your disobedient husband or church leader. Continue to look for ways to respect them and be their greatest cheerleader, even if the house is sitting in darkness because he forgot to pay the electric bill. Let the Holy Spirit of God work on him. And you are not the Holy Spirit of God.

If you try to fix the situation or the man, you will fail at every turn and you will be going directly against the command of God and that is sin.

Someone will point to churches that women pastors and make mention that there are men on their boards, but I have never seen or heard of a church where women are pastors where the men were worth much as men. They might argue with me about that in front of their women leaders, but they wouldn't in private. A man who is being led by his wife has really checked out of the family; he's off watching TV, or off playing with the boys, or out hunting, or into some sort of vial sin. Its just the way God made men and women.

To answer your last question, a woman in leadership over men is not necessarily reprobate. She might be, but she might also simply be a confused and sinful believer.

I hope this helps.
3) In the discussion on the issue of membership you had mentioned that the primary right of members was the election of elders and leaders. What would be the position of a CREC church towards a regularly attending non-member woman? Would she be allowed to attend perhaps for years without her husband?
First, you need to know that I am not an official spokesperson for the CREC. Any comments I make here should be considered representative of Christ Church of Moscow. The CREC churches are independent enough to have pretty varied ideas on some of the opinions that I've expressed here. In this area, however, I would venture to say that I am being pretty representative of CREC views.

The answer to your first question here is that she would be treated in the same way as any other regularly attending non-member. We would love her and minister to her in any way we could.

The answer to the second part would depend on the situation. I can imagine situations when a woman could attend for years without her husband attending too.

The only time we would force any person to stop attending our church is if she/he were in open rebellion against God. And this might include her rebelling against her husband and not attending church with him.
4) In the answer to question (2) there was a distinction between election and salvation being made. [Material quoted from first round answer in italics]
A's moral status does not effect B's election. That is something only God knows about. But A's moral status does affect B's salvation because the sins of the fathers run down hill to the sons. B may be elect, but A's lifestyle may have taught him to follow in his path and thus influence his eventual salvation. B might grow up and need to run into someone from Campus Crusade in college to be saved as opposed to being raised in a godly home with a godly father who has taught him from the womb.
I had trouble understanding how this distinction was being used. Could you elaborate a bit on how the terms are being used (a short definition) to help elucidate the above paragraph?
The short answers to these questions are: Election, we're talking about decreetal election, means that God has chosen some to eternal life and some to eternal destruction. Those God has called to life are called elect. Those chosen for destruction are called reprobate.

The elect are made up of two kinds of person: Those who have met God through Jesus Christ already, and those who before they die will meet him. They meet Him, by the way, through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This preaching can be done through the example of a godly Christian living in their midst, or through some kind of literature, or most normally through the preached word as the person attends church.

When a person meets God and they realize that they have, up to this point, been living as if they were God. This is not a good thing and because of this kind of living God will reject and damn for eternity all those who will not bow the knee to him. But when they realize their silliness in rebelling against the sovereign God, the person hearing the good news (which is what Gospel means) of Jesus believes the word, confesses his rebellion and turns to God in gratitude and joy. The gratitude and joy are the result of realizing that Jesus took the penalty of his rebellion on himself when he died on the cross.

This transformation is called salvation. A person is said to be saved when they believe that the news is true, true for them as well as those "other guys" and when they turn from their sins and turn to God (this is the definition of "repentance"). There is also a sense that a person who has met Jesus is being saved as well. This is because while living in this life we face all the temptations to sin we did before, but there will be a day when Jesus will come for us and we will be finally saved from sin and the effects of sin.

Until a person is saved, he is called unregenerate. You can't tell the unregenerate people from reprobate people until they receive the Gospel and are saved. Until then everyone looks the same. Also, in a church you can have all of these kinds of people present. There are elect and reprobate (or non-elect). There are saved and not saved yet and never to be saved. It all depends on how you come to the conversation.

So, the elect are people who have been chosen by God to be with him in glory. Salvation is when the realization of God's choice is made known to us as we hear and believe the Gospel. We are elect, chosen by God and saved from Sin to God.

Getting back to the paragraph above. I said the moral status of A does not effect the election of B. This is because election is something that God does independent of anything men do.

A's moral status does affect B's salvation because, if he is elect, it might take longer for someone with the Gospel to get to B then it would if A were a godly man and was bringing B up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Many Christians, even those who grew up in "Christian" homes had to wait until they were deep in sin in college to find a person who would tell them about Jesus. And thus the sinfulness of his parents affected how and when B might have begun enjoying the fruit of the Spirit of God in his life.

I'm pretty sure I've confused the tar out of you, but hopefully the conversation will move in a good direction from here.
5) In terms of membership, and its connection with voting one follow up question was I had here was whether the voting issue pertained only to church issues or whether CREC advocates a similar position for civil election. In question (1) of the previous question set you had agreed with Abshire on the issue of federal representation. He explicitly extends this to the civil sphere as well. Does CREC?
If we were to write the laws of the land I think we might make the voting representative, hmmm, just like they started out in our republic, when it still was a republic.

But right now we follow the laws of the land and ask all those who are lawfully able to vote to vote in the civil realm.

I think this goes pretty much across the CREC.

One other note to the fact that I am not representing the CREC: The CREC is not a postmillennial denomination. In other words you don't have to sign on to federal government to be in the CREC. I don't know if there are any churches in the CREC that are not postmillennial, but there could be. So, their voting ideas, even within a church's government might be different than ours at Christ Church. In other words, at Christ Church we have family memberships. Other CREC churches might have individual memberships. In those churches where the membership is by individual everyone votes; men and women.
6) In the follow up discussions, you had responded that the only issue that membership decide on was elders and deacons. What happens in a CREC church when membership disagrees strongly with an elder decision? In particular does the majority need to vote on an excommunication?
At Christ Church the elders work very hard to know what is on the minds of our people. We work very hard to not make any changes that have not been worked out a long time before the change is implemented. For example, our pastor came to the conclusion that wine ought to be used in the worship service around 10 years before we implemented it in our worship service. And even now, a person who has scruples about wine can pick up a cup of grape juice before or during the service.

If there were a time when an elder or the session said or did something that a significant number of the congregation disagreed with, we have a mechanism for them to bring grievances to the session and have their concerns heard. This does not have to be a certain number of people, one person can come.

Members do not vote on excommunications. Members are asked their opinion at the hearings and they are given very heavy weight, but in the end they do not vote. Also, the vote, by the elders, must be unanimous to excommunicate someone. We have 13 elders right now.

Again, I don't know the procedures in the other CREC churches.
7) Do you consider the Federal Vision to be a sacramental, a theological or a moral doctrine?
Yes. Because theology is about God and God is about everything, Federal Vision is about everything. Your theology shows itself in how you live. If you say you have good theology and you live like a pagan, you don't have good theology. If you say you live according to the Bible, but your family falls apart, you are not living according to the Bible. You're just fooling yourself.
8) What do you see as the relationship between the Federal Vision and the new perspective on Paul.
The only real relationship between the 2 is in the minds of the critics. There are some things the New Perspective folks said that were very thought provoking and actually correct, but over all the main tenants are wrong. Credenda/Agenda magazine had a whole issue devoted to their attitude to the New Perspective theology. You can find it here:

Also, the latest issue of Credenda is all about the Federal Vision. It isn't on-line yet, but you can get a copy by calling our church office (208) 882-2034.
9) In an email exchange you had indicated that CREC frequently disciplines men for failing in their duties as husbands (being unloving). It was unclear to me which parts of this were public. What if anything would you like to have be part of the 2nd set?
I don't know what your last question here means. [The question refers to two cases Mike had spoken about. In both cases CREC had disciplined male members for "failing to be loving to their wives" which amounted to irresponsible and/or self indulgent behavior.]

The answer to the first part is that we let the congregation know what is going on to the extent that the problem has already been made public. For example if the person under discipline is drunk in public and it gets into the newspapers, we tell everyone what is going on. But if the problem is a private family problem we will keep it private until it gets to the point where the Bible tells us to take their sin to the whole church. This might be in a hearing where we end up suspending the person from the Lord's Supper or where we actually go all the way to excommunication. Suspension is temporary meant to be a warning. Excommunication is permanent (excepting full repentance).

In the two cases we had this past Sunday, both men were excommunicated and the whole church could have known about them before hand. The trials/hearing/gatherings (we don't know what to call these meetings) were public to our congregation and the congregation was informed of them at the Heads of Household meeting prior to the trials.
10) Are there distinctions between an adult woman living alone (never married) and a male head of household in terms of membership?
Only that we try to care for the woman more carefully than we do the man. We might be a little more on the lookout for the woman in terms of things she might need. For example house repairs, snow shoveling, lawn mowing, etc. But in terms of church government there isn't any difference.
11) What is the status of New Saint Andrews with respect to CREC? Is it a member organization or does it report in at the denominational level?
NSA is its own entity. The board of directors is made up mostly by Christ Church and Trinity Reformed Church elders. There is at least one member who is not from our area and he is a CREC pastor. But NSA is not an official CREC institution.

All of the faculty and staff are members of either Christ Church or Trinity Reformed Church, both here in Moscow.

I hope this helps,

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

CREC and Membership

CREC is an abbreviation for Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches, though one members church uses the abbreviation to mean Christ Reformed Evangelical Church. The denomination was co-founded along with two others ( Dave Hatch of Trinity Church in Woodinville, WA, and
Gene Helsel at Trinity Church in Wenatchee, WA) by Douglas Wilson pastor of Christ Church in Moscow Idaho, who at this point is the current moderator of one of two presbyteries under the general assembly. Doug Wilson is one of the four that spoke at the Auburn Avenue conference which was key to the development of Federal Vision theology and the theology plays a prominent role in the denomination's thinking. Thus during our discussion of Federal Vision and Catholicism, the topic of membership in CREC came up. Additionally, the denomination puts out Credenda/Agenda, is associated with the New Saint Andrews College.

Mike Lawyer is an administrator and an instructor in Greyfriars' Hall Ministerial Training School, as well a ministering elder in Christ Church (Moscow, ID) and Pastor Doug Wilson's executive assistant. He has graciously agreed to answer the questions below. These questions as they were given to him in green and his answers in black, any additional information will be provided in blue. Mike was aware this question and answer was intended for publication and this blog gives permission for redistribution with attribution to this material. This discussion assumes preexisting familiarity with the CREC constitution. Before simply quoting I would like to thank Mike Lawyer for his time and energy in answering these questions. Everything below this line is from our discussion


1) What is the reason behind household voting rather than individual voting? Is it an idea of Federal Representation (the father represents his family to the church) as per Abshire Federal Representation, or something else?

Mr. Abshire represented why we have household voting very well in his article. Our households are represented by the husbands and fathers of the homes. In cases where there is no father or no husband the mother or single woman acts as the head of her household and votes on behalf of the family.

I wouldn't sigh off on every little jot and tittle that Mr. Abshire said in his article, but over all it was very good. We wouldn't dissuade a woman from getting a graduate degree, for example. We would discourage going to debt to get it, but we do that with the men as well. A woman can be a great asset to her husband, children, church and community no matter how highly educated she is. We have women in our church who have law degrees, who are doctors, and who have other advanced degrees. They serve the Lord Jesus very effectively because of their degrees and training. They also reach people for Christ that they could not if they weren't so highly educated.

2a) If he is a representative then how far the headship of the husband extend? Is there a formal hierarchy involving family members?
Lets take a father A and his 18 year old living at home son B.
Does A's moral status effect B's salvation / election?
Does A's moral status effect B's effectiveness of prayer?
There is definitely a hierarchy involving family members. The Father is the head of the wife. The children honor the parents. The parents are to bring up the children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

A's moral status does not effect B's election. That is something only God knows about. But A's moral status does affect B's salvation because the sins of the fathers run down hill to the sons. B may be elect, but A's lifestyle may have taught him to follow in his path and thus influence his eventual salvation. B might grow up and need to run into someone from Campus Crusade in college to be saved as opposed to being raised in a godly home with a godly father who has taught him from the womb.

A's moral status effects B's effectiveness in prayer as well. His influence and modeling teach B how to pray and when to pray and whom to pray to. So B's prayer is definitely affected by A's lifestyle.

If you mean does A's moral status cause B's relationship with God to be negated simply because of A's existence, then I'd say no to both questions. A does not cause B to lose or gain his relationship with God simply by his immoral existence.

2b) I'm assuming the answer to both of these no. If so:
Does A's moral status effect B's membership?
Assuming A is a member can A cause B to be disciplined?
Assume A can, can A prevent B from being disciplined?

If A is a member of a covenantal church, then B will be a member of the church. This is an effect.

If B is disciplined by the church it will be because of B's sin, not A's sin. A might be involved in the process. He might be the first contact, confronting B with his sin (see below), or he might be the one the sin is against and he may be the one who brought to the elders in the first place. In this sense he would be causing B's discipline.

A can prevent B from being disciplined by helping to bring B to repentance before church discipline become a reality. For example suppose A finds out B is sleeping with the neighbor's daughter. A can gently bring B to repentance and thus avert any further discipline by the church. He might be the first step in the Matthew 18 process.

Discipline is not for the censure of the one being disciplined, it is for the restoration of the one being disciplined. It is never to be seen as a punitive action, it is always a cleansing and purifying action. It is meant to protect and purify the church and to bring the sinner to his senses and back to Christ.

2c) Assume that A isn't a member.
It seems that B can independently be a member of the CREC church? What if A objects?
What if A is a member and B wants independent membership?
If in both cases B's wishes are respected in what sense is their a hierarchy?
B could become an independent member if A is not. If his father, who is not a member objects, it would depend. We don't have a rule for this. We would take it on a case by case basis.

If A were a member and B wanted independent membership, our loose rule is that B can't do that, but it would depend on the situation. I could see allowing B to have his own household membership in the right situation.

The main point here would be that B would have to be his own household. For example if, for some reason, B were to get married at 18 he would be his own household, or if he were in town as a soldier stationed here for some reason, we might let him join as his own household. And life is funny, I'm sure there would be other situations where it would make sense to recognize B as his own household.

3) When you have representatives the representatives are supposed to have advantages: more knowledge, more time to dedicate, more experience.... What is the husband bring here to church matters? Moreover, does picking middle age men as the primary voting population not create severe bias.

I'm not sure what your question is here.

Being the husband or father does not imply any of the advantages you list. In fact, my wife thinks it is an advantage to not have to be the one who votes and who attends these boring meetings. Being the head of my house does not imply any advantage at all it implies that I am under authority. I am responsible to lead my family under the authority of God almighty.

I said earlier that the family has a hierarchy, and while the world sees any hierarchy as one of who gets to be in charge, the Bible says the hierarchy is who get to serve whom? The Lord Jesus came as a servant, the fathers serve their families, the husbands serve their wives, the mothers serve their children, the children serve and honor their parents. Whenever you hear that someone is supposed to submit themselves to you, your immediate response should be fear and trembling and a diligent search to see who you should be submitting to.

it is not at all uncommon for a wife to be more educated, more biblically savvy, more wise, more intelligent, etc. But the man is still the head of the home. It is still his responsibility to lead his family to the throne of grace. It has nothing to do with skills, smarts, gifts, abilities. It has to do with the Word of God and what God says about how things are.

4) Sarah [reference to "Sarah" here is to Sarah Hodges, a participant in the prior discussion who knows Pastor Wilson to whom the questions were originally directed] was fairly sure they would not forbid membership in all cases, "And I am pretty darn sure that it is a case by case basis. I bet you a sum of money that if a woman came to CREC wanting to join alone, and her husband was a member of the local Catholic church, she would not be told to go worship with her husband... she'd be welcomed with wide open arms. "

I don't know who Sarah is, but again, it depends. We wouldn't automatically let a woman in this situation join our church. We might very well send her back to worship with her husband in the Catholic church. We would strongly advise her not to sin while doing so, but to do it in a very unobtrusive way. Don't cause a scene, don't cause a ruckus. The goal being to win her husband through quiet and chaste behavior (1 Peter 3).

4con) I then gave some scenarios:
a) The local Mormon church
b) The local Lutheran Church (liberal)
c) The local Lutheran Church (conservative)
d) Local PCUSA church
e) Local OPC church
f) Local CREC church which the woman absolutely refuses to attend and the husband does not have the session's permission to abandon (recently married)

It would be the same in all of these situations. I don't understand (f). Each one of these would differ a little bit from the others. For example, the Mormon church is not, in any sense, a Christian church. So, how long the woman stayed there to worship (2 Kings 5:18) would vary from situation to situation. The best thing would be that she would win her husband to Christ or to a higher calling in Christ by how she lives in front of him.

But there might be situations where we would let her join immediately.

5) Sarah asserted that "They just think that is the more biblical way of doing things."
However she couldn't identify where Wilson saw the doctrine that the bible does talk about the church as a collection of families rather than a collection of believers?

There doesn't appear to be a question here.

The Bible clearly talks about 3 areas of government (church, family, civil). It also talks about individuals. It is our contention that when the Bible talks about individuals that it always assumes that they are in some sort of relationship to other people. And when those other people are related in one of the particular governmental relationships they are to treat one another in particular ways related to those governments. And these are always loving and submissive.

Here are a few passages that talk about households. Notice how important they are to the functioning of the churches around them: Jn. 4:53; Acts 16:31, 34; 18:8; Rom. 16:10; 1 Co. 1:11, 16; 16:15; 2 Tim. 1:16; 3:6; 4:19; Tit. 1:11; Heb. 11:7. And this doesn't even begin to point out how central the family is to the Old Testament or to the teaching on how to live in the family. To say that the family has nothing to do with the church is sort of funny. It seems to me, I could be wrong, that everywhere the Bible tells us how to live as individuals it also, somewhere close by, tells us how to live as families. And we do it all as members of Christ's body the church.

Notice that I have no problem with talking about individuals, here I am simply pointing out that the household, because we live in covenant with our family members, is central to our lives as Christians and this is done in the church.

6) Finally on issues on discipline do all CREC churches have to respect each other's discipline absolutely or do they have appellate rights?

They can discuss what is going on and either respect the other's discipline or reject it. There is nothing written anywhere that decrees how we work together in these situations. We would be very careful before overturning another church's discipline. But this would be with any other church, not just CREC churches.


This interview continues here.