The hot button discussion in American Evangelicalism this week is the recently released “Nashville Statement”. This is an attempt by some Reformed Evangelicals to clarify their views on sexuality; the statement has raised a fair amount of agreement and a fair amount of disagreement. Given the theological diversity of my friends, some have loved it and others have found it terrible. You can see the diversity of public opinion within “15 Reactions For And Against the Nashville Statement.” In my opinion, the following posts have been tremendously helpful in thinking about #NashvilleStatement: [Read more…]
Thomas Creedy wrote “An Open Letter to My Church Friends” in regards to a recent book published by Steve Chalke called Being Human: How to Become the Person You Were Meant to Be. Since anthropology and spiritual formation are such vitally valuable topics for the Church to engage upon, and the intersection of ethics and theology so important, I think Creedy is onto something when he ponders why in the world Chalke would reference Howard Yoder.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Yoder, here’s a quick recap: Yoder past away in 1997 and was a theologian and ethicist from the Mennonite tradition. One of his most popular books was The Politics of Jesus. While Yoder was/is a well known and popular theologian/ethicist, he’s become increasingly more known for the “sexual violence” he committed against up to 100 women (cf. this National Catholic Report and Ted Grimsrud’s chapter, “Reflections from a Chagrined “Yoderian” in Face of His Sexual Violence” in John Howard Yoder: Radical Theologian). Read that again: Yoder’s sexual violence is well known. Just do a google on “Howard Yoder” and you find multiple articles addressing this!!!
So when Creedy requested that Chalke, and his publisher @HodderFaith, “to retract the publication of the book, and edit it to reflect the dehumanising nature of some of the ideas,” he was simply asking what anyone would do.
Yet Chalke sees differently. In a response posted by ChristianToday.com, Chalke response can be found in the following:
Chalke told Christian Today that he didn’t know about Yoder’s personal history before referencing him in the book, but wasn’t inclined to make any changes to the book in light of the information.
He said The Politics of Jesus had been a “massively influential” book in his life. “I think it’s a fantastic piece of theology,” he added – an opinion which would no doubt be shared by many.
He acknowledged that there was a “clear gap” between “who Yoder is revealed to be and what he espoused” but added “There’s always a huge gap between our aspirations and behaviour.”
He said there were numerous cases from history of leading theological figures who had morally questionable personal lives, pointing to the widespread influence of Karl Barth, despite his unconventional domestic arrangements (he lived with both his wife and secretary, who became his mistress).
“King David was hardly sweetness and light,” he added.
He said that although he appreciated Yoder’s theology, it was not a defence of the allegations against him. “Just as I consider Karl Barth an extraordinary theologian… But it’s his theology I’m reading, and I understand there’s always be a gap between who we [say we] are and what we do.”
Uh, Houston… we have a problem. Actually, make that problems.
First, comparing Yoder’s sexual violence to Karl Barth’s alleged marital infidelity is absolute ignorance. Furthermore, concerning Barth, his alleged affair has not been proven and historians differ on what to make of Barth’s relationship with Charlotte von Kirschbaum (check out Charlotte von Kirschbaum and Karl Barth: A Study in Biography and the History of Theology for some ideas why it’s complex). It’s simply amazing anyone would suggest that sexually violating 100 women is on par with possibly having a consensual sexual relationship with someone (not that I’m suggesting marital infidelity does not matter!).
Second, the fact that authors are so quick to dismiss the relationship between theology and praxis deeply troubles me. “Well, who cares about the fact that Yoder sexually violated women.. he has good theology in regards to ethics.” Uh… WHAT?! Isn’t ethics related to this subject?
Third, and this is what I find absolutely undefendable, Chalke actually seems to imply that sexually violating women leads to a “morally questionable” life! WHAT?!?!?! Morally questionable? How about absolutely evil and dehumanizing. This has got to be an example of further Chalke rhetoric that has not been properly articulated… I hope. Unfortunately, this is a response indicating that Chalke is not interested in considering the ramifications of his publication… which is why @HodderFaith should step in and do the right thing.
Fifth, and this is aimed directly at you Mr. Chalke, you should issue an apology and use this as an opportunity to move away from continuing a cycle of dehumanization and overlooking the tremendous affects of sexual abuse and talk about the importance of integrating our theology and our practice.
Come on… do the right thing.
Two days ago, Oct. 25, 2014, an Iranian woman was hung by an Iranian court because she had the audacity to defend herself from being raped. According to Amnesty International, this woman was sentenced to death after a “deeply flawed investigation and trial.” Let that sink in.
Her name, by the way, is Reyhaneh Jabbari.
In certain places of the world and according to certain people, it is better to be raped than it is to defend oneself from rape. As I was reading (and praying) about this over the past few days, I’ve had a number of feelings. I’ve been deeply grieved, extremely angry, and astonished at what this says about the world we live in.
Women are still oppressed!
Yes, there has been tremendous advancements toward the equality of women in certain parts of the world (i.e., Europe and North America). Yet women are still not paid equally as men and women are still viewed by many men primarily as sex objects (no small thanks to pornography). In fact, two days ago a young lady told me a story of how she was trying to work out at a local gym and a man whom she did not know randomly asked her if she was interested in having sex with him… at the gym in the tanning booth! Seriously? On what plant is that healthy and constructive and respectful?
Yes, women are still oppressed according to any standard definition of what that word actually means.
It’s hard for me to understand in what universe it would seem remotely possible to sentence a woman to hanging and then carry that punishment out simply because she defended herself from her would-be rapist. One would have to have a worldview that envisions women as inferior to men in all respects. Apparently women, in this type of thinking, are purely sexual objects.
I wonder if this type of thinking is found in the United States. I wonder if this type of thinking is found in churches. I wonder what it is going to take for this view to change?
No longer looking the other way
This past weekend Trinity Christian Fellowship, the church I serve as a pastor, had Sandi (and Doug) Erickson speak on the subject of social justice in relation to sex slavery, human trafficking, and adult entertainment. On Saturday night, as we were sitting in my living room, Sandi asked a profound question: How many churches will talk about Reyhaneh tomorrow morning?
The Church can’t look away from this type of injustice. Any cursory study of church history will tell you that women have not only been at the forefront of missionary expansion but have often led the missionary expansion. In fact, women have often been the only gender involved in certain missionary movements! Women have been and are and will be absolutely crucial fulfilling God’s mission here on earth, the ever important and beautiful Missio Dei.
And not only are women intricately involved in the expanding work of God’s kingdom, women are part of God’s target for redemption!!!! After all, Jesus provided somewhat of a “missional strategy” when he quoted from Isaiah 61:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
The Reyhaneh’s of this world need to be freed from the deeply disturbing type of oppression that they face. People all over the world, who are blind to injustice, need to have their sight recovered. The Church needs to connect with Jesus’ “missional strategy” and confront this type of injustice head on, no longer looking the other way.
Reyhaneh’s death was and is and always will be an alarming, distressing, and deeply embarrassing stain upon human dignity. As one who was created by God and bore his image the way that Reyhaneh was ignored, treated, and killed sends a message to women all over the world that we, the Church, must oppose.
Women’s lives matter.
I guess blogging is as good a place to be introspective and anecdotal as anywhere else, right? I’ve decidedly chosen to “think out loud” here at ThinkTheology.org for a number of years now, so this isn’t really all that new. I’ve written in the past about why I think the “gospel-centered” movements should abandon complementarianism as their default, about why I think William Webb’s redemptive movement hermeneutical model is applicable to complementarians, and discussed why I appreciated “compassionate” complementarianism. Even when I was describing myself as a “soft complementarian,” I was enjoying what egalitarians were saying about trajectory hermeneutics. I even reported my two days of being an “egalitarian” husband and father (day 1 and day 6) in addition to my acknowledgement that our presuppositions play a huge role in how we approach this subject. As these links attest, I’ve done my share of constructive criticism toward complementarianism as well as talked about poor arguments made by egalitarians. As you can tell, I’ve been interested in the subject of women in ministry for a long time. Eight years ago I was a convinced complementarian. Five years ago I was a soft complementarian. For the past two years I’ve been “undecided.” Currently I’d describe myself in the following way: [Read more…]
Since the Church of England recently voted to not allow for women to serve as Bishops, the Prime Minister of England, David Cameron, has told the Anglican leaders to “get with the program” (source here). He states,
“Now I’m very clear, the time is right for women bishops. It was right many years ago, they need to get on with it as it were and get with the program, but you do have to respect the individual institutions and the way they work, while giving them a sharp prod.”
This, in my understanding, is why a “state church” raises concerns. However, N. T. Wright responded by saying that “It’s about the Bible, not fake ideas of progress.” He states,
“It won’t do to say, then, as David Cameron did, that the Church of England should “get with the programme” over women bishops. And Parliament must not try to force the Church’s hand, on this or anything else. That threat of political interference, of naked Erastianism in which the State rules supreme in Church matters, would be angrily resisted if it attempted to block reform; it is shameful for “liberals” in the Church to invite it in their own cause. The Church that forgets to say “we must obey God rather than human authorities” has forgotten what it means to be the Church. The spirit of the age is in any case notoriously fickle. You might as well, walking in the mist, take a compass bearing on a mountain goat.”
It’s very interesting to watch as these types of developments take place in “real time” due largely to the Internet. I think Wright is wise to remember the primacy of the church’s mission over the concerns of the government. I just don’t understand how that actually works in a “state church.” But I guess this is how we find out!