One time in the 19th century, an aristocratic woman sniffed at the idea of an invitation to receive Christ at the end of a church service. “I don’t need to go down to the front of a church to become a Christian.” Charles Spurgeon, who was no friend of that invitation system, replied something like, “It is true that a person doesn’t have to go down to the front of the church to become a Christian. But you do.”
I want to write about the egalitarian frenzy that has our culture by the throat, about a woman’s rightful place, and about woman’s rightful name. But we have to touch on something else first.
An Autobiographical Illustration
When I was slogging my way through all the issues related to what we Calvinists like to call the doctrines of grace, I was having a rough time of it. The sleds of God’s sovereignty over all things were making quite a racket as they clattered across the rocks of my pride, with no snow anywhere in sight. For about the first three quarters of my doctrinal investigation into what the Scriptures taught on this subject, that investigation was significantly hampered by the fact that I was studying whether or not something was true while at the same time being entirely unwilling for it to be true. Believe it or not, this is something that can get in the way.
And I can still recall when that all changed. There was the moment when I surrendered the thing in principle, and sometime later there was another moment when I surrendered on the merits. Those moments were distinctly and entirely different, and the first one was more important than the second.
For the former, I came to the point where I remember praying and telling the Lord that I was willing for all of this to be true (mighty big of me, I know, but that’s another subject for another time). I did not become a Calvinist at that time, but I had surrendered my pride on the point. I was willing to go there if the text led me there. Prior to that moment, I was also going there, but that was more a function of me being hauled.
The latter moment, as best as I can tell, happened during the course of a sermon I was preaching. I was preaching through the book of Romans (and why I had decided to do something as foolhardy as that is yet another question), but anyway, there I was, preaching through Romans. I remember that I had told one of our elders that I did not know what I was going to say when I got to “those chapters.” Well, “those chapters,” as I so quaintly put it, were starting to loom large. And they were maintaining a steady bearing rate, as they say in the Navy. Unless evasive maneuvers were soon taken, there would be a collision. I was somewhere in chapter 8 or 9, not sure of exactly where now, when I thought to myself something like what the hell, and just started saying what it said. I know that this is not the most pious way to adopt the doctrines of grace, but even with my prior surrender, please remember I was being dragged backwards through a hedge. I still have some bracken in my hair.
Anyway, I got to telling stories there for a minute. The reason I brought all this up was for the illustrative point. When I was at my first point of principled surrender, I didn’t have it all worked out in my mind. But it was finally worked out in my heart.
And this is why, in all debates and discussions that are fraught with terror to our pride, the crucial phrase but what if it does? should constantly be kept in mind. I had been saying, for example, that the Bible doesn’t teach definite atonement. The internal reply should always come back, but what if it does? What will you do with it then?
The Real Issue Made Manifest
And this point shows us how for many individuals, the real issue in so much of our tangle and turmoil is the authority of Scripture and not, as we like to pretend, Calvinism, or women’s ordination, or role relations between the sexes, or the age of the earth, or head coverings for women, or the sinfulness of homosexual orientation. Those are all places where battles take place, but they are not the reason for the war.
The reason for the war is that God has a different definition of human flourishing than we do. And incidentally, part of His definition excludes the use of soft-soap phrases like human flourishing. “And John the Baptist came to Herod, and said, ‘For you to have such a meaningful relationship with your significant other, but one who was unfortunately so recently your sister-in-law, despite the fact that her prior relationship was not touching her deepest heart needs, is still not conducive to human flourishing, and is working against your own best interests, at least in the long run. And it is your own best interests I have in mind.’” All of which is strictly speaking true, kind of, and would have saved John the Baptist his head. But to use phrases like human flourishing is not conducive to human flourishing.
The real issue is the battle between two authorities. One is the authority of God’s Word over against the “authoritative” voice of our own stinking pride, a pride always lousy with corruption. A glad surrender needs to come first. A whole-hearted capitulation to the ways of God is the first order of business always.
“If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself”
John 7:17 (KJV)
So willingness to obey, settled beforehand, is an epistemic necessity. If a man is willing to do what God wants, then he shall know. Carping and kicking beforehand, whatever the issue, is the sure road into agnosticism and unbelief, and from there to atheism.
Telling everybody what the text doesn’t mean and can’t be saying is the way, in short, from thin complementarianism to a flat denial of God’s existence. Did I just say that? Yes, I did. This is because you can’t really strike a treaty with a cancer that has solemnly promised you that it will remain in the lymph nodes.
Why Submission Is So Important
The reason so many modern evangelical women do not want to submit to their husbands, despite the stone cold clarity of biblical teaching on the subject, is that so many modern evangelicals generally have no notion of submitting to the text of Scripture over all. We glibly and routinely set aside the Word of God for the sake of our traditions. This means that evangelical women who refuse to submit to their husbands are doing so in a time when theologians, preachers, exegetes, commentators, YouTube explainers, and so forth, are all blazing the trail for them. “You don’t want to submit to anything you don’t like? Let us show you how it is done!”
The reason evangelical women don’t want to submit is because they don’t want to be different. They don’t want to stick out. Nobody wants to submit.
Speaking of a lack of submission, this also explains why so many preachers have quietly dropped “obey” from the bride’s wedding vows. It strikes such a jarring note on a happy occasion.
So Then . . .
So that aristocratic woman who wouldn’t go forward had her issue, but our issues are different. But even so, Spurgeon’s point still remains. Different generations have always had different temptations and sins, but all of them driven by the pride of man. In our day, egalitarianism is rampant. Feminism is assumed throughout the unbelieving world, and even in the conservative Christian world, a form of feminism lite is surreptitiously assumed. And in some quarters, it is openly assumed.
“Where does the Bible forbid a woman to get an MDiv at a Reformed theological seminary?” Well, before we get into that, what would you do if it did forbid it? What would your attitude about that be?
“A woman doesn’t have to wear a denim, homeschool jumper to be a godly Christian.” That is quite true. But you do.
“The Bible doesn’t say that I have to wear my hair in a cute little ponytail.” That is true, it doesn’t. But if it did, would you? And would you do it gladly?
“I am getting married soon, and I don’t see any reason why I should have to take my husband’s last name. Where does Scripture say I have to do that?” First, let me point out that refusing to do so would only mean that you keep your father’s name. And second, would you be happy to take your husband’s name if Scripture required it? And third, let me show you something.
When God created the world, He repeatedly said that every feature of it was good—light and dark (Gen. 1:4), land and sea (Gen. 1:10), grass and herbs (Gen. 1:12), sun and moon (Gen. 1:18), and so on. It is not until we get to Gen. 2:18 that God says something was “not good.” Now that particular “not good” was pronounced over a solitary male, over a bachelor. And this was not said because he was bad, but rather because he was still incomplete. He was a man, but he was not yet Man.
God had made a man, but He had not yet completed the larger project, which was Man. We can see from Scripture that both men and woman are called together to be Man, with a capital M.
“Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created”
Gen. 5:2 (KJV)
In other words, Adam was Adam. But it is also true that in another sense, in a more complete sense, Adam and Eve together were Adam. And this is the biblical principle beneath a woman taking her husband’s last name. Man means a guy, and man also means mankind, men and women both.
So of course it is a good thing to be a man. When the OB says, “It’s a boy,” this is good news . . . because it is a boy. If the OB says, “It’s a girl,” this too is good news, and for the same reason. It is good to receive whatever physical gift God has determined to give. What God does in this regard is always good. Our duty is simply to submit to what He has done, and to rejoice in it. So the biblical name for someone who maintains he is a woman trapped in a man’s body is ingrate.
It is also good for a man to enact the role of a man when that is needed. Because we live in a world where sin and disobedience are all around us, it is possible for a man to be a man in the sense of being male, and yet not to play the man. A man is a man, by definition, but a man is also charged to act like a man. “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13, ESV). This also is a good gift that the process of sanctification grows a man up into. And a problem in this area could take on many manifestations—from travestitism to cowardice in battle to abdication in relationships to a slippery presentation of a nuanced monograph on the deeper meaning of kephale at the Evangelical Theological Society.
But we live in muddled times, and so I do want to clarify one thing. It is only a good thing to be a man provided you are someone who is supposed to be a man. If you are a woman, it is bad to be a man. If you are a man, it is bad to be a woman. In addition, I would hasten to add, it is bad for little yellow chickadees to try to become a herd of buffalo. This is because all such attempts will be unsuccessful and, over time, increasingly risible.
Repenting the Sins of Others
Repenting the sins of other generations is a low-cost activity. It is also very popular, for reasons that should be obvious to any Christian who is suitably cynical. But repenting of the sins that are common in our era, and not only common but applauded by all the cool kids, is another thing entirely. Quite a number of modern Christians need to repent of their tolerance, their liberation, their freedom from traditional norms, and their sensitivity. But that is not easy—repenting of their self-identified virtues can be a real challenge. So for anyone who is at all woke, the need of the hour is repentance.
A Two-Bucket Woman
Both Peggy Lee and Maria Muldaur appear to have had a better grasp of certain creational realities than do some of our well-coiffed ministers who caper so prettily on the gospel stage.
I got a twenty dollar gold piece
Says there ain’t nothing I can’t do
I can make a dress out of a feed bag
And I can make a man out of you.
Why would a first-rate woman want to be a third-rate man? Why would a two-bucket woman want to be anything else? For those curious about the graphic, it is meant to represent that two-bucket women, leaving her residence in Prov. 31, about to go on a special Saturday night date with her husband.
When we accept the biblical teaching on the role relationship of husband to wife, and wife to husband, we are then set free to grow and develop within our assigned creational categories. We are cutting with the grain. But when we cut against the grain—when we want empowered women instead of cheerful ones, when we want educated women instead of intelligent ones, when we demand vive la ambiguïté instead of vive la différence, when we want chemically barren women instead of women with breasts full of milk, when we want women who can’t cook instead of women who can, when we want no-nonsense executives instead of women who are attractive—we are simply manufacturing our own madness. Wise women have always known how to think theologically. But women who want to be known as certified theologians because they are discontented and envious of the men are actually paying a lot of money so that they can learn how speak without authority, just like the scribes. They are now like a bunch of the men, but they chose the wrong kind to emulate. The right kind wouldn’t have let them. And so the men who tolerate all this are worse. They are acting as though men don’t have natures, and as though women don’t have natures, and that we can all just strive to be whatever we want, so long as we really really want it, and provided it is in line with what the current regime at the Ministry of Propaganda is churning out, and just so long as it fulfills our hopes and dreams. Hopes, dreams, daydreams, nightmares, whatever. A thinking man should have the fantods and the collywobbles.
I gather that I may have said a few offensive things in this section. But if I had to guess at which sentiment was the most offensive of all of them, I would venture to say that it was the notion that men and women have defined natures, natures which fit them for some tasks, and exclude them from others. It all sounds so unfair, but only because the sin of envy has been indulged for so long. And this brings us back to the first point. Are we willing for Scripture to teach that men and women have distinct natures? Are we willing for nature to teach us this? Are we willing for reality to have a say in such matters? Does “the way things just are” have any authority? If your answer is yes, then you are not far from the kingdom. If the answer is no, then this is the basic reason why you are so unhappy.
Gospel is Pronounced with a Hard G
The gospel is the message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. He accomplished this great work so that we could be freed first from the blindness brought about by sin. This means repentance of being any kind of woke. After repentance, we are to believe everything God says. This brings us to the relief of forgiveness. We repent first of our sins, especially those sins we identified as our woke-virtues. We turn secondly to Christ, looking to have the guilt of that sin taken clean away.
But you should be aware of one consequence. The Bible teaches us that the gospel, being efficacious as it is, will put us totally out of kilter with the spirit of the age. Jesus died and rose, and that is why faithful believers will be terminally uncool. Part of the whole point was to get us out of the mainstream. But remember that it is often the case that the mainstream goes right over the falls, and onto the rocks.