Embracing no fault divorce is the natural result of elevating romantic love to a moral force.

Some time back my wife and I watched the old TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1962).  It is interesting to watch old shows like that because they give you a sense of the Hollywood propaganda of the age.  One line was frequently repeated, with slight variations:

He won’t give her a divorce, even though he knows she doesn’t love him any more.

This line was presented as scathing proof that the man being accused was a horrible monster.  Not only was he forcing a woman to remain married to a man she no longer loved, but he was also preventing her from marrying her (latest) true love.  Hollywood’s concerted effort to destroy the moral authority of marriage was clearly successful;  no fault divorce was enacted in California just eight years after the series ended, and the rest of the union followed suit.

The simple fact is the moment you attribute moral value to romantic love you are creating a rival to biblical sexual morality.  In biblical sexual morality it is marriage that creates a moral space for sex and romantic love (with romantic love not separated from sexual passion).  We have overturned God’s order here, and are now claiming that romantic love is the moral space for marriage and sex.  This is deceptively subtle, and at the same time demolishes the moral meaning of marriage.

The idea that romantic love confers morality to sex is an idea that goes back to the concept of courtly love beginning around 1100 AD.  Courtly love was in part a reaction to the widespread belief among Christians in the Dark Age that it was unseemly, and in fact sinful, for a husband and wife to have sexual passion for one another. As St. Jerome argued in Against Jovianus Book I:

Hence Xystus in his Sentences tells us that “He who too ardently loves his own wife is an adulterer.” It is disgraceful to love another man’s wife at all, or one’s own too much. A wise man ought to love his wife with judgment, not with passion. Let a man govern his voluptuous impulses, and not rush headlong into intercourse. There is nothing blacker than to love a wife as if she were an adulteress.

Passionless duty sex was for marriage, and passion was for adultery.  Courtly love built upon this idea with a twist.  It added a new concept of romantic love, separating out the emotional aspect of sexual passion.  This newly separated concept of romantic love was worshiped and seen as sanctifying.  CS Lewis summed up the concept of courtly love as (emphasis mine):

The sentiment, of course, is love, but love of a highly specialized sort, whose characteristics may be enumerated as Humility, Courtesy, Adultery, and the Religion of Love.

In the 1500s and 1600s the Puritan movement argued that passionate sex in marriage was not immoral, and fought against the idea of sanctified adultery in the form of courtly love.  However, some Puritans kept the seemingly innocent vestigial idea of romantic love as sanctifying sex.  In this new twist romantic love was seen as sanctifying sex within marriage instead of outside of it.  The famous Puritan poet John Milton wrote in Tetrachordon:

And although copulation be considered among the ends of marriage, yet the act thereof in a right esteem can no longer be matrimonial, than it is an effect of conjugal love.  When love finds itself utterly unmatched, and justly vanishes, nay rather cannot but vanish, the fleshly act indeed may continue, but not holy, not pure, not beseeming the sacred bond of marriage; being at best but an animal excretion…

This is as you will recall the same concept we constantly hear from modern complementarian preachers.  They teach that marital sex requires romantic love to consecrate it, otherwise it is merely rubbing body parts together.  This is not a biblical idea, and is in fact an anti-biblical idea.  Proverbs 5 tells husbands they should be like a rutting buck with their wives.  Moreover, the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Cor 7 that marriage is for life, and that not having sex in marriage is a sin.

This idea is wholly at odds with what the Bible teaches us about sexual morality, and yet it has insidiously wormed its way into our modern thought process.  Once you invert the relationship between marriage and romantic love, what the Bible teaches is moral becomes sin, and what the Bible teaches is sin becomes virtue.  If romantic love sanctifies marriage and sex, it would be immoral to remain married should the sanctifying romantic love wane.  The writers of Alfred Hitchcock Presents understood this in the late 1950s, as did Milton in 1645.  The Tetrachordon, the piece from Milton that I quoted above, is a tract he wrote advocating no fault divorce:

Milton’s divorce tracts refer to the four interlinked polemical pamphlets—The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, The Judgment of Martin Bucer, Tetrachordon, and Colasterion—written by John Milton from 1643–1645. They argue for the legitimacy of divorce on grounds of spousal incompatibility. Arguing for divorce at all, let alone a version of no-fault divorce, was extremely controversial and religious figures sought to ban his tracts. Although the tracts were met with nothing but hostility and he later rued publishing them in English at all, they are important for analysing the relationship between Adam and Eve in his epic Paradise Lost. Spanning three years characterised by turbulent changes in the English printing business, they also provide an important context for the publication of Areopagitica, Milton’s most famous work of prose.[1]

Posted in Complementarian, Divorce, John Milton, Marriage, New Morality, Rebellion, Romantic Love, St. Jerome | 122 Comments

Weak men screwing the sexual revolution up.

Former CBMW president Owen Strachan has an article up at The Gospel Coalition that has been trending for the last few days:  Gospel Hope in Hookup Culture.  Strachan offers four solutions to the problem of hookup culture, while managing to omit the obvious biblical solution to the problem of rampant sexual immorality;  if you burn with passion, marry.

Instead of directly exhorting young people to marry, Strachan offers mostly feminist talking points coated with a thin veneer of what he calls the “Biblical sexual ethic.”  The first talking point is:

1. Promote an ethic that focuses on the whole person, not ‘hotness.’

Talking point number two is less overtly feminist, but appeals to the anti biblical idea that romance purifies sex:

2. Promote God-honoring romance, not sexual utilitarianism.

Point number three is back to standard feminist boiler plate, and even uses the feminist term rape culture:

3. Train men to care for women, not prey on them.

…Wade reports, students today are suffering from “rape culture,” sexual assault, the loss of intimacy, the lack of committed relationships

What is so striking here is that women are deliberately rejecting the protections that a biblical model provides for women in the form of fathers and husbands.  They are doing so because submitting to a father or husband is unbearable to the feminist mind.  Instead of the protective roles of husbands and fathers, feminists have called for all men to make sure all women have unlimited freedom to (among other things) have sex with random strangers.  Anything short of this is defined by feminists as “rape culture”, and Strachan is unwittingly adopting and promoting this frame of mind.

Point number four is yet another feminist plea:

4. Help students see they are not defined by their sexuality.

Hookup culture is equally corrosive for women. According to Wade, “Sexy costume themes” at campus parties “reward women for revealing and provocative clothes, stratify them and put them into competition, all while reminding them that it’s their job to make parties sexy” (195).

Not long ago, you would only see this kind of mindframe in women’s studies courses.  Today it saturates complementarian Christian thinking.

In a separate related piece Strachan wrote at Midwestern Seminary’s* Center for Public Theology, he asserts that women are being forced into fornication:

The new sexualized marketplace is much like the old one—structured around strict male and female differentiation, with men leading women. But the old culture, one shaped by a Judeo-Christian ethic, called men to self-denying monogamy and self-sacrificial leadership. The old culture disciplined men and protected women. The new culture does neither. It frees men to prey on women and leaves women in a horrifyingly vulnerable place.

The denial here is breathtaking, as women have been very open for decades about seeing marriage as a trap that keeps them from freely exercising their sexuality.  There is no secret here;  this is an open rebellion.  Strachan has to understand this, at least at some level, which is why he and so many others take such great pains to avoid telling young people that the biblical solution is to marry and stay married.

Interestingly, while complementarian leadership has fully internalized large portions of feminist thought, the comments to the article show that the contradiction between slightly re-branded feminist boilerplate and reality is starting to bleed through.  Commenter Jason2010 opened his response to the article with:

“Train men to care for women, not to prey on them”.

This statement indicates that the author may not fully understand the realities of the phenomenon he responding to…

Elizabeth M agreed, opening her comment with:

I don’t know whether the author unintentionally meant to say that women are less capable of keeping the moral law or even perhaps that they are better at keeping sexual purity depending on how you read the article…but I do think he is just grossly unaware of the conversations and mindset that young women have today…

As did flgirl850, who replied to Jason2010’s comment with:

I agree 100%.

Note that these are the only three comments left on this trending article since it was published several days ago, and two of them are from women.

*Midwestern Seminary is the same group that brought us The Problem With Our Complementarianism, which compared male leadership of the church with “a room of chimps all chimping…”

See Also:

Posted in Complementarian, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Midwestern Seminary, Owen Strachan, Rape Culture, Rebellion, Romantic Love, The Gospel Coalition, The Real Feminists, Traditional Conservatives, Turning a blind eye, Ugly Feminists, Weak men screwing feminism up | 153 Comments

TGC on the importance of a complementarian feminist merit badge.

The Gospel Coalition’s front page banner article today (archive) is 5 Reasons I’m Glad I Went to Seminary, by stay at home mom Elizabeth Garn.  In closing, Garn explains that seminary wasn’t really required for any of the five reasons she offers:

Is seminary absolutely necessary to get that foundation (or any of the other things I’ve mentioned)? No, not necessarily. Could a person learn all I learned without a seminary education? Probably. But it’s harder to do it on your own. There’s something to be said about surrounding yourself with trustworthy, godly professors who will guide you to a deeper faith in God and knowledge of his Word.

Well, there it is. That’s what I’d tell a friend if they asked whether I’m glad I went to seminary. I’d refill her coffee, double check the time to ensure we weren’t late for preschool pickup or whatever errands we were supposed to be doing, and if we still had an extra minute we’d discuss the ways seminary might be possible for her if she were interested.

But if it isn’t really necessary for a Christian housewife to go to seminary, why is an article promoting this so important that The Gospel Coalition chose to make it the lead on their front page?  The reason is complementarians are excited about empowering women by sending as many as possible through seminary, and having the women who can’t directly attend seminary seek out other women who attended seminary for theological instruction.  Otherwise Christian housewives would suffer the fate of asking their husbands, as Scripture instructs wives to do (1 Cor 14:35, Eph 5:25-28).


Posted in Complementarian, Envy, The Gospel Coalition, The Real Feminists | 74 Comments

Jane’s noble path to marriage.

Seriouslypleasedropit comments on Most men are not afraid of commitment:

Bob and Jane have some sort of prelude romance and move in together. Either because Bob is just that cool, Jane that desperate, or whatever, Bob hasn’t actually had to put forth that much effort into the relationship.

Time passes. Jane gets nervous and starts pushing for “committment.”

He is making a larger point, but he has inadvertently framed Jane’s promiscuity in the way Jane would do.

In reality, Jane has had no commitment sex with a string of men, demanding varying degrees of displays of investment by the men along the way. With Bob, Jane decides that she wants him to signal greater investment in their sexual relationship by moving in together. Bob agrees because he is either happy to do so because he expects more sex due to proximity, because he is hoping Jane will be the woman who finally commits to him, or because he feels pressured by threatened loss of sex.

Now serving...The important part is that Jane has secured the status of public investment while keeping her options entirely open.  If Jane decides that she can do better, she will toss him aside as she has done with so many other men, and find a new man to have sex with. Eventually Jane finds that one of these men is the one she wants to marry, so she pressures him to propose. He could be man #3 in her quest, or man #53. If she chooses man #53 and he doesn’t propose, Jane loudly complains that all men are afraid of commitment. And Jane should know, given her wide experience with men.

Jane then says to any conservative who will listen (which is pretty much every conservative):

Look at cruel Bob. He moved in together with me for free sex, but now I’m afraid he isn’t going to commit. He was just using me!

And the conservative is outraged. Here Jane is following the sacred path to marriage, tirelessly sampling penises (poor Jane sampled 53 just to be thorough) until she finds the one whose owner owes her a marriage vow, and now that she found the one she wants to propose he is ruining the whole thing!

Take a number picture by Eric B (archive).

Posted in Choice Addiction, Finding a Spouse, Having it all, Marriage, New Morality, Serial Monogamy, Traditional Conservatives, Turning a blind eye, Weak men screwing feminism up | 154 Comments

Surely they will be reasonable once they see how reasonable *we* are.

Back in 2009 Dr. Wayne Grudem wrote a piece titled Personal Reflections on the History of CBMW and the State of the Gender Debate*. Grudem first became involved with the topic in 1979 after reading an article in Christianity Today by Berkeley and Alvera Mickelsen:

[The] article was titled, “Does male dominance tarnish our translations?” They argued that the Greek word kephalē (literally, “head”) often means “source” but never “authority,” so that “the husband is the head of the wife” (Eph 5:23; cf. also 1 Cor 11:3) means “the husband is the source of the wife” and does not have authority over his wife. I thought the argument was wrong, but I didn’t have the time or material at hand to answer it.

Originally Grudem hoped to enlist another scholar to refute this article, but instead he was encouraged to do so himself.

Six years later, in 1985, I published a twenty one-page article in Trinity Journal, “Does kephalē Mean ‘Source’ or ‘Authority Over’? An Examination of 2,336 Examples”2—examples which took me some time to look up in ancient Greek literature!

However, even though egalitarians couldn’t point to any examples of the word meaning “source”, and despite Grudem showing that it was regularly used to mean authority, egalitarians continued to question the issue. In response, Grudem wrote an even more thorough refutation of this claim:

There were several responses from egalitarians to that twenty-one-page article. So, five years later, in 1990, I published a seventy-page article in Trinity Journal,3 responding to other studies on the meaning of kephalē and showing that there were now over fifty examples where it meant “someone in authority,” or “a leader,” but never an instance where someone is said to be the “head” of someone else and was not in the position of authority over that person. Never.

This of course still didn’t satisfy the egalitarians, because this was never really about a serious disagreement on what the Bible said.  This was about feminist rebellion against Scripture, with a minimal effort made to pretend this was a real theological discussion.  Unfortunately Grudem still hadn’t figured this out, so he went back and did even more research on the topic and published a third scholarly article:

But there were still more responses, and more people disagreeing. So eleven years after that, in 2001, I published another article, forty-one pages in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, on “The Meaning of kephalē (“Head”): An Evaluation of New Evidence, Real and Alleged.”4

So that’s 132 pages of lexicographical research published in academic journals on one word in the Bible. And these articles spanned sixteen years of my life.

Note that the egalitarians only had to make an unsubstantiated claim, and continue to make the claim despite irrefutable proof to the contrary. By doing so, they managed to tie a scholar like Grudem up for fifteen years.  Even after all of this, the organization Grudem founded (CBMW) presents this totally baseless argument as if it has merit.

Grudem makes a strange defense of his choice to keep researching the issue for an additional decade despite having settled the question in his original paper:

Why did I do this? Because it was a crucial word in a crucial verse in a crucial issue. Destroying the meaning “authority over” for kephalē is crucial to the egalitarian argument. If in fact the Bible says in Eph 5:23 that “the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church,” and if head means, as I am convinced it does, “person in position of authority,” then the egalitarian cause is lost. That is because that verse anchors the husband’s headship in the headship of Christ over the church, which is not something culturally variable (and 1 Cor 11:3 makes it parallel to the eternal headship of the Father with respect to the Son in the Trinity). So the egalitarians cannot lose this argument, because if they lose on the meaning of that word, then they have lost their fundamental argument with regard to manhood and womanhood in marriage.

Grudem is clearly an outstanding biblical scholar, which makes this argument all the more striking.  Ephesians 5 isn’t the only part of Scripture covering headship and submission.  1 Pet 3 is if anything even stronger at refuting the egalitarian claim, as it says that wives should submit to their husbands even if their husband fails to obey the word.  1 Pet 3 explains that wives are to do this because it is beautiful to God. Since God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, the rooted in the times argument is out from the beginning.  Moreover, 1 Pet 3 says wives should submit to their husbands as the holy women did in the past, again, showing that this is not practical advice related to the times as egalitarians so often claim.

The meaning of head in Ephesians 5 is critical not for egalitarians, nor even for traditionalists.  Even if head meant “source” in Ephesians 5, the passage still tells wives to submit to their husbands, and it is merely one of many which does so.  Egalitarians are lost even if they win this argument, and traditionalists are largely unfazed even if they somehow lost it.  On the other hand, the meaning of the word head is critical for complementarians, because complementarians twist themselves into knots to avoid telling wives to submit to their husbands out of a fear of seeming harsh, demeaning, and male supremacist.  The only way complementarians can sound traditional while avoiding preaching submission is to focus all of their energies on the responsibility of the husband to act in such a way that his wife naturally wants to submit.  This is not the biblical model of marriage, it is the complementarian model of marriage.  The closest to a biblical justification for this invention is the word head in Eph 5.  This is true despite the fact that even the word headship is discomforting to complementarians, who have coined the term servant leader and focus on cartoonish chivalry.

Even so, Grudem has done a great service by vigorously refuting the spurious claim about head.

Why did I do this? So that commentaries, Greek lexicons, and Bible translations in future generations will accurately teach and translate a crucial verse in the word of God. If head equals “authority over” as has been shown now in over sixty examples, then the ballgame is over. And even today, twenty-four years after my first article, there are still zero examples where a person is called “head” of someone else and is not in authority over that person. Zero.

But as Grudem notes, despite the original claim being made without evidence, and having been thoroughly debunked, the Bible is not (and never was) the issue:

That kind of evidence would normally settle the debate forever in ordinary exegesis of ordinary verses.

But this is not an ordinary verse. Because the evangelical feminists cannot lose this verse, they continue to ignore or deny the evidence. I think that is very significant.

It now seems to me that, for some people in this dispute who have thought through the issue and are committed to the egalitarian cause and have the academic knowledge to evaluate the evidence for themselves, what the Bible says on this question is not decisive. And, sadly, InterVarsity Press (USA), in spite of being given evidence of multiple factual errors in Catherine Kroeger’s article on “head” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters,5 still continues to refuse to make any changes to the article.

Grudem goes on to recount his recollection of the founding of the CBMW.  I won’t summarize it here, but you can read it in the linked piece.  After the CBMW was founded, Grudem had his second major learning experience with egalitarians. Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) asked for CBMW leadership to meet with them in an effort to find common ground.  At CBE’s urging the CBMW created what they expected would be a joint statement on abuse.  The CBMW leadership did not seem to understand that feminists are very open that their focus on abuse is about eradicating headship, not on actual abuse.  Even worse, the CBE was merely trying to take the CBMW off message, and had no interest in a mutual statement:

As we talked, there seemed to be agreement that one thing we could do together would be for both organizations to agree publicly that abuse within marriage is wrong. So we agreed to work on a joint statement on abuse. After the meeting, Mary Kassian drafted such a statement, and we got some feedback from the CBE people, and we were going to issue it. But, then on October 10, 1994, we received a letter from them saying that their board had considered it, and they would not join with us in the joint statement opposing abuse. I was shocked and disappointed when the letter came. I wondered then if their highest goal in this issue was to be faithful to Scripture above all and stop the horrors of abuse, or was to promote the egalitarian agenda. We ended up publishing the statement ourselves in CBMW NEWS (later renamed The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood).

Even after this, Grudem seems to have still expected good faith from egalitarians.  In yet another incident, Grudem and the CBMW were assured that the gender neutral version of the NIV had been scrapped:

But just before the meeting began, the IBS issued a statement saying they had “abandoned all plans” for changes in gender-related language in future editions of the NIV. So we thought the controversy was done and the NIV would remain faithful in its translation of gender-related language in the Bible.

Little did we know, however, that the Committee on Bible Translation for the NIV had not “abandoned all plans”! Far from it! Unknown to anyone outside their circles, for the next four years the Committee on Bible Translation, apparently with the quiet cooperation of people at Zondervan and the International Bible Society, continued working to produce a gender-neutral NIV. They had publicly “abandoned all plans,” but privately they were going full-steam ahead. Then suddenly in 2001, they announced unilaterally they were abandoning the agreement not to publish gender related changes in the NIV, and they published the TNIV New Testament in 2001 and the whole Bible in 2005.

In his conclusion Grudem says he originally thought the whole feminist rebellion would blow over once he and others carefully explained the correct meaning of Scripture:

I am surprised that this controversy has gone on so long. In the late 80s and early 90s when we began this, I expected that this would probably be over in ten years. By force of argument, by use of facts, by careful exegesis, by the power of the clear word of God, by the truth, I expected the entire church would be persuaded, the battle for the purity of the church would be won, and egalitarian advocates would be marginalized and have no significant influence. But it has not completely happened yet!

Unspoken in this (and complementarianism at large) is an attitude that Christian feminists are not rebelling against God in a pattern that dates back to the fall, but are the natural reaction to a suddenly harsh generation of Christian men.  This is why Grudem and his colleagues repeatedly fell for the feminist ruses, and why to this day they are most concerned with showing how reasonable they are.  Grudem has adopted the feminist sin of a wife “being a doormat”, and teaches that it is a Christian sin!  This feminist teaching, along with the statement on abuse the CBE tricked them into, is part of the founding charter of the CBMW.

However, Grudem is slowly starting to realize that at least some egalitarians aren’t arguing in good faith:

After that, in 2006, my book Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism?6 solidified a new viewpoint for me—the conviction that many evangelical feminists are not going to change their minds or be convinced because, it seems to me, they have repeatedly adopted principles or chosen exegetical decisions that undermine or deny the authority of Scripture. Once that abandoning of scriptural authority comes about, then a movement will not be persuaded by Scripture, and in that case, when the culture is going the other way, they will not ever be persuaded on this issue. That conclusion has affected a lot of what I think about where this controversy is going.

But despite this, it is men who are too strong in their support of biblical headship and submission that Grudem warns complementarians need to forever be on guard against:

(2) Beware the opposite error of male supremacy and dominance. Whenever you fight against one error, those who hold the opposite error will cheer you on and seek to become your allies—but beware. Some will become harsh and demeaning and argumentative, and they will not truly honor women as equals in the sight of God.

*The original article is no longer on the CBMW site, so I have linked to an archived version.  You can also find the article in the Spring 2009 Quarterly Journal.

Posted in Attacking headship, Complementarian, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Dr. Wayne Grudem, Duluth Model, Rebellion, Servant Leader, Social Justice Warriors, Traditional Conservatives, Turning a blind eye | 126 Comments