In her second chapter, Rachel Miller does say some good things, particularly about the tranny-nonsense. And in addition to that, she also says a number of unobjectionable things about how we ought to serve one another in our interdependence, which is exactly right, and how men and women ought to relate to one another as co-workers—“co-laborer captures the sense” (Loc. 555). Plenty of good things here, and so credit where credit’s due.
But even so, even with all this orthodox roughage taken into account, her entire project remains wrong-footed from the start. And the fact that she is wrong-footed is evident in this chapter.
Aren’t There More Choices?
She appears to gravitate naturally to the formulation of issues that are shaped as false alternatives. It is hard, at least for me, to diagram or analyze arguments that are trying to persuade us either that Georgie is taller than he was or that this Volkswagen is orange. Aren’t there more options? We don’t have enough data even to talk about it—and wouldn’t have, even if Georgie and the Volkswagen were right here in front of us. What do I mean?
“At the same time, the Bible doesn’t start and end with authority and submission—it is Jesus’s story from first to last”
And this is what I mean by a false alternative. She is assuming that there are two options. Either the Bible begins and ends with authority and submission, OR it is the story of Jesus from start to finish. So which do you choose? Authority and submission or Jesus? I choose Jesus! Was that the right answer?
But suppose I were to write a statement like this. “The Bible doesn’t start and end with references to gold—it is Jesus’s story from first to last.” Wouldn’t this set me up for some wiseacre questioner who wanted to know “what about Gen. 2:12 and Rev. 21:18? The answer to this problem, of course, is to realize that it was created by a poor formulation of the initial statement, by our false alternative. It is quite possible for the Bible to contain references to gold in both Genesis and Revelation and to be Jesus’ story from first to last. This sort of thing should not be hard.
So also, in the same way, the Bible can be about Christ from first to last, which it is, and it can also start and end with authority and submission. The apostle Paul teaches us that the woman is under the authority of the man, and should be submissive to him, precisely because of the creation order as it was described for us in Genesis (1 Tim. 2:11-13). And in the last book of the Bible the twenty-four elders are casting their crowns before the one who sat on the throne (Rev. 4:10). We have authority and submission at the start and authority and submission at the end, and it is all about Jesus.
Here’s another one.
“Our most fundamental identity isn’t whether we are male or female; it’s whether or not we belong to Christ”
Now this could be a reasonable statement to make, depending on the context. If you were debating someone who was maintaining that his fundamental red-pill identity was too that of male, and/or a feminist with a fevered brow who is saying that females were the only true humans, it would be appropriate to say “that shouldn’t be your fundamental identity.” Confronted with such idolaters (those who serve the idols of maleness or femaleness), it would appropriate to confront them with the truth that our fundamental identity should be grounded in Christ instead. And amen.
But the way Rachel Miller has this set up, believing Christians are being exhorted to choose between things we don’t really have to choose between. If my fundamental identity is to be found in Christ, which it is, then I must accept that fundamental identity. I must receive it. And what I am—my nationality, my ancestry, my sex—are all part of the I that must accept that identity. And when we surrender to Christ as our ultimate reality, the things that describe us, such as our sex, are not zeroed out. Rather they are surrendered, and then glorified. Redeemed men and women will be men and women, respectively, forever.
And another time she presents us with an implied false alternative. We “need to stop defining women as the polar opposite of men” (Loc. 551).
Okay. But who was doing that? The implied false alternative comes at us this way. Either you agree with Rachel Miller’s particular way of understanding the interdependence of men and women, or you are saying that they are polar opposites. But what does this even mean? And considering how difficult it would be to conceive of men and women as polar opposites, or to conceive babies if we were in fact polar opposites, I am left wondering who she has in view here.
Why Is This Such a Big Topic?
As I see it, the key thing that Miller does not appear to grasp is the difference between where the battle is and why the battle is. Where a battle is fought does not necessarily tell you the reason for the war—the reason the Nazis fought us at Normandy is because that is where we invaded. Why are we fighting over authority and submission? Because that is where the invasion is happening.
We already noted that Miller believes that the Christian faith does not “start and end with authority and submission” (Loc. 542). Okay, sure, but does egalitarianism begin and end with rejecting authority and submission? Why, yes, it does.
And are we dealing with an egalitarian onslaught, with a leveling impulse that seeks to democratize absolutely everything? Why, yes, we are. Do we have an establishment (state, corporations, media, etc.) that looks at us as though we were nothing but a bunch of uneven hot asphalt and they were the Steamroller of Social Justice? Why, yes, we do.
Before the rise of egalitarianism, it was possible for generation after generation of men and women to live together while practicing traditional roles, because this was “just the way it is,” and yet to also have nobody talking about it. It was just the air that everyone breathed. But now that we live in a time when those traditional roles are being challenged, outlawed, mocked, ridiculed, pilloried, patronized, fined, flayed, and otherwise disrespected, anybody who does not want to capitulate needs to be prepared to defend the authority and submission tower of the castle of biblical authority. We put our troops at those places along the wall because that is where the attack is happening.
It reminds me of that Confederate soldier who was captured by Union forces, and someone asked him what he was fighting for. The answer was simple enough—“I’m fighting because you’re down here.”
If we were living in some future ideal biblical republic, in one of the sunnier eras of our coming postmillennial happy hour, and we were reading an expansive systematic tome that summarized the entirety of the biblical faith, the chances are pretty good that the section on authority and submission would not be as large as the sections on the Trinity or the Incarnation. Because no one would be trying to distort the faith, we would be free to describe that faith in balanced terms.
But we are not at peace. We are at war with a host of egalitarians, arrayed against us like the hosts of Midian. If only the Christian church could be somehow made aware of what is going on exactly. If only someone would get up the nerve to tell Beth Moore to go home.
Did the Christian faith start and end with denials of Darwin’s views on the beak sizes of the Galapagos finch? Well, yes, and no. In one sense, the size of their beaks was neither here nor there. I mean, who cares? But in another sense—because that is where the attack was—we ought to have done a lot more fighting, and a lot less surrendering.
Did the apostle Paul’s views of the gospel begin and end with the seating arrangements at the Antioch potluck? In one sense, it didn’t matter where everybody sat, and in another sense, the entire gospel was at stake.
“But authority and submission aren’t the only things that the Bible teaches us about our relationships with each other”
Right. But we aren’t focusing on authority and submission as much as we are because we think that “on Num. 30:8 hang all the law and the prophets.” We are focusing on it because that is where the central heresy of our day is currently concentrating all its fire.
So this is exactly true in one sense—authority and submission aren’t the only things—and entirely beside the point in another. The Bible teaches us many things about our relationship with one another besides the issue of authority and submission. But who cares?
Suppose that Billy is trying to get Suzy into the back seat of the car whereupon, if he succeeds, he will try some other things. She protests, a little too feebly for our liking, but she does protest. She says that the Bible flatly prohibits what she has by this point surmised to be Billy’s intention in the matter. Now what would we think if Billy responded to this admirable protest by saying something like, “You know, the Bible is about a lot more than just sex. The greater flow of the redemptive/historical narrative scarcely touches on it.” This is wonderfully true on paper, and also Suzy would be well-advised to ignore this particular truth entirely. Why? Because it is a truth that has been enlisted in the service of a lie.
The Bible is about a lot more than sexual purity. But at particular moments in time, when sexual purity is under assault, it is most necessary for those who are being tempted to focus on what the Word says about what they are being tempted to disregard. Sure, the Bible doesn’t focus on freedom from fornication as the grand theme of our systematic theology. But whoever would say that we should be focusing on, in our day-to-day lives, what the Bible focuses on as viewed by the archangel Michael?
When I am at work, I should focus on the duty of working hard. When I am being tempted, I should focus on submitting to God and resisting the devil. When I am being tempted to disregard the Bible’s teaching on role relationships, I should focus on maintaining the Bible’s teaching on role relationships. I should resist where I am being enticed, and not at some other place.
So a hatred of authority and submission is right at the center of egalitarianism, and that is why there is a war on. That is also why our Reformed evangelical establishment is doing such a lousy job of it thus far. And in the aftermath of the go home comment, if your natural instinctive flinch was in the direction of Beth Moore, and not in the direction of John MacArthur, you are a big part of the problem.
But What Kind of Unity?
There is one other thing that deserves a little analysis.
Rachel Miller emphasizes a number of times that men and women have a foundational unity. That is true enough as far as it goes, but she goes and gives us a really troublesome metaphor for our use in thinking about that unity. There is a hidden assumption about the nature of unity that is skewing everything for her.
First the unity:
“The Bible testifies to our unity. We don’t have one Bible for men and a different one for women.”
“In contrast, the Bible teaches us about what unites us.”
Loc. 592, Loc. 561
Okay, fine. But then she says something truly odd. She refers to “what our bodies look like on the outside” (Loc. 565). Her operating metaphor appears to be something like “different on the outside/the same on the inside.” According to her formula, Adam and Eve certainly looked different on the outside, but they were the same on the inside.
But I don’t think that this is how the unity of the sexes works. A lock and key share a profound unity, as do a violin and bow. We ought not to dispute the fact of the unity, or the importance of it. Their unity is absolutely essential to their function—one mechanism, one instrument. But their unity is not because they are somehow the “same” on the inside. The complementary nature of men and women is much more like a violin and a bow than it like a chocolate-coated ice cream bar with vanilla on the inside and a butterscotch-coated ice cream bar with vanilla on the inside.
And lest I be misunderstood by my foes and interlocutors—not that that has ever happened—let me hasten to add that I do understand the parallel forms of unity we see between the man and the woman. They both have souls, they both speak in the high mystery of language, they both walk upright, and we could multiply examples. But their souls are complementary, not just their bodies. They both speak, but he speaks like a man and she speaks like a woman. In short, we find the violin and bow metaphor working at multiple levels. It is not that their bodies are man and wife, but inside they are colleagues. What they are to each other anywhere is what they are to each other everywhere. The complementarity is extensive.
And that odd assumption of hers about unity sets her up for this howler.
“I’m sure Adam noticed the physical differences between himself and Eve, but they weren’t what he dwelt on”
This is written like a woman who does not know how guys think, not even a little bit, and to whatever extent that she hears about such hurtful differences, she identifies them as a result of the fall.
And this illustrates yet one more issue with all of this. If some guys are playing a game of pick-up basketball, and a couple of girls come and ask if they can join, the guys might be completely happy about letting them join in. But the guys are still in a position to know that what has just happened has completely altered the nature of the game. The girls most likely do not know this. They think they have simply joined in with a game of basketball. But the game before and the game after is a game that is completely altered.
So let us imagine an adult Sunday School class being led by a woman with Rachel Miller’s outlook on such things. And so she asks them all a question: “When God first brought Eve to Adam, and introduced them, what do you think was the first thing Adam noticed about her? Perhaps we could gain a little insight from the male perspective here. Men?” All the panicky thought bubbles over all of the men’s heads are displaying things like nothing doing, not on your life, are you kidding me right now? and why are you tormenting us?
She thinks she is playing basketball with the guys, and has no idea that everything about it is completely altered. “Men, please make sure you share the male perspective with us, so that we may learn. And also please make sure that whatever you share is ‘suitable.’”
I once saw a clip of a comedienne making fun of Cosmopolitan’s breathless tendency to publish articles on ten thousand ways to please a man in bed. She said, “C’mon. They’re guys. Take off a sock.” This is the kind of common grace shrewdness that recognizes that differences between men and women go all the way down, and particularly include differences in how we think about sex. If we asked this comedienne what Adam might have first noticed about Eve, it probably would not have been her suitability as a potential chess partner. But in this new worldview of vanilla-on-the-inside unity, you can get a bunch of women and men together, and get them all to talk as though all this loftythought were true, but this is only because every form of wrongthink and wrongspeak will be severely punished.
You may have noticed that I did not describe any of the answers that the men in that Sunday School class might have hypothetically offered, thus starting a riot among our post-complementarian brothers and sisters. And do you know why I did not offer them? Because I am not such a fool.
You may think I am overstating my case here, but let me tell you about it. I once had all my wedding homilies subjected to quantitative analysis. I know what I am talking about.