Sunday, May 10, 2009

Justifications for a Patriarchal Hermeneutic-- Part One

I’ve been constantly affirming here on the blog that because believers are a New Creation in Christ, they cannot affirm life in the New Creation while still placing priority on the Old order.

Margaret Kostenberger attempts to do this in her polemic against feminists. I’ve written a post on the “Kostenberger Hermeneutic,” but I wanna place here Margaret’s quote on how she believes Scripture should be read:

“Scripture in its entirety IS PERVADED BY THE PRINCIPLE OF MEN BEARING THE ULTIMATE RESPONSIBILITY AND AUTHORITY FOR MARRIAGE AND THE FAMILY AS WELL AS FOR THE CHURCH, ‘the household of God’ (1 Tim. 3:15). This principle of male headship reaches from God’s creation of the man first (Gen. 2:7), to his holding the first man accountable for humanity’s sin (Gen. 3:9-12), to the ancient Israelite practice of ‘patricentrism,’ to the all-male Levitical priesthood in Old Testament Israel, to Jesus’ choice of twelve men as his apostles, to Paul’s teaching that men bear ultimate responsibility and authority for the church (1 Tim. 2:12). In fact, Paul himself believed that his teaching of male headship was rooted in the Genesis creation narrative (see 1 Cor. 11:8-9; 1 Tim. 2:13)” (“Jesus and the Feminists: Who
Do They Say That He Is?”, pp. 33-34).

Let’s take a look at Kostenberger’s justification for her patriarchal hermeneutic.
First, her proof for patriarchalism is “God’s creation of the man first.” However, God’s creating Adam first made Adam the head of creation, not the HEAD of the home. Remember what God said when He made mankind?

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness. THEY will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and
the creatures that crawl on the earth” (Gen. 1:26, HCSB).

Notice God gave rule of the earth to “THEY,” referencing Adam AND EVE! It was not just a rule to Adam—but also his wife, who was created second to him. Eve was not slighted at all by her creation order. In fact, her timely creation is significant, considering Adam’s circumstances:

“Then the LORD God said, ‘IT IS NOT GOOD for man to be alone. I will make a helper who is like him” (Gen. 2:18, HCSB).

Then, God does as promised; He creates Adam’s partner:

“So the LORD God formed out of the ground each wild animal and each bird of the sky, and brought each to the man to see what he would call it. And whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal; BUT FOR THE MAN NO HELPER WAS FOUND WHO WAS LIKE HIM. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. Then the LORD God made the rib He had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man” (Gen. 2:21-22, HCSB).

Look back at Genesis 2:18. The Lord decided to create Eve not because she was different (although she would be!), but because she would be “LIKE HIM”! It is a terrible thing today to see complementarians who consume their time stressing gender differences. If you wanna be faithful to the biblical text, pay attention to what it says—Eve was created because she was LIKE Adam, not because she was different from him! There were more than enough creatures in the Garden who were different. What Adam needed was someone LIKE him. Read Genesis 2:20—

“The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal; but for the man no helper was found who was LIKE HIM” (Gen. 2:20, HCSB).

So, from the very beginning, Eve was placed on an equal plane with Adam in the Lord’s eyes. In addition, notice Adam’s naming of her:

“This one, AT LAST, is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called WOMAN, FOR SHE WAS TAKEN FROM MAN” (Gen. 2:23, HCSB).

According to the Holman Christian Standard Bible, Adam breathes “a sigh of relief” when Eve comes to him. He has spent his time naming all the other creatures of the Garden, and NONE of them are even remotely similar to him! He shares NOTHING in common with them, and they share nothing in common with him. In addition, they can’t talk to him or communicate in the way he was made to. In essence, he’s lonely…
But when Eve comes, he says, “this one, AT LAST, is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh…” It’s like Adam was saying, “FINALLY, someone who is JUST LIKE ME!” when he sees Eve for the first time. He’s relieved to see that she is LIKE HIMSELF, not different from himself. As I said a minute ago, differences were all Adam saw in the Garden—tons of creatures distinct from himself. But when he saw Eve, he was relieved to find that, of all the creatures in the Garden, SOMEONE was similar to him and
could relate to him…

There’s one last thing about Eve—her title. Let’s read the account of Genesis 2:23 (given above). What do you notice? First, that Eve is given a title; and second, Adam gives a reason as to why he classified Eve as “woman”—because she came out of the man.

Having read Piper and Grudem’s “Rediscovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” and now having read Kostenberger’s book, I am more appalled at the things they have written about “womanhood.” Complementarians claim that Eve is labeled “woman” because she is “different” from the man—and she is. But she is labeled “woman” because of her ORIGIN (she came from man), not because of her PHYSICAL DIFFERENCES! And yet, Piper and Grudem devote an entire section of “Rediscovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” to discussing biological, psychological, and other differences between men and women. They spend more time on emphasizing the differences of the two genders than does ALL OF GENESIS!

Eve was classified as “woman” because she was not the origin of life—she came OUT OF the first human (being Adam). But the name “Adam” was first a GENERIC name, meaning “man,” “human,” “humankind”—not MALE! The Hebrew word for “mankind” or “humankind” is “adam”; and “A/dam” came from the “adamah” (the Hebrew word for “ground”). But the fact that God deemed Eve as a NECESSARY creation for the man shows that the man was never intended to be alone. The man needed a “helper,” so Eve
was the solution to the man’s loneliness.

Adam’s being created first, however, does have a significance: Adam, as the first human, is the head of creation. And as the head of creation, Adam does get privileges that Eve does not. For example, he gets to name all the animals (Gen. 2:20); and he gets to tend the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15). In addition, Adam is first told God’s command by God Himself (Gen. 2:16-17). And, in case this doesn’t grab our attention, let’s look at the consequences:

“And He said to Adam, ‘because you listened to your wife’s voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘Do not eat from it’:
THE GROUND IS CURSED BECAUSE OF YOU…it will produce THORNS and THISTLES for you” (Gen. 3:17-18, HCSB).

When Eve sins, she is punished physically (Gen. 3:16); but when Adam sins, not only is he punished, but ALL OF CREATION! We know from this that Adam was held responsible for sin in the Garden—but this is because he was the human HEAD of creation, not head of the home!! Humanity is not the only thing that Adam was responsible for (Rom. 5), contrary to the complementarian belief! Nature was also cursed in addition to humanity.

After telling the story of Adam’s creation and then Eve’s creation and Adam’s relief, the writer records:

“THIS IS WHY a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, AND THEY BECOME ONE FLESH” (Gen. 2:24, HCSB).

The writer seems greatly concerned with showing why man and wife become ONE when they marry. But let’s look at why this is so: the woman (Eve) was created when God took one of Adam’s ribs and made her (Gen. 2:21). Therefore, Adam and Eve became ONE FLESH because for Adam to marry Eve, it was as if he was REATTACHING his rib to himself! Without Eve, however, Adam would be incomplete.
And this is a big slap in the face to complementarians. The truth is, however, that men ARE NOT ALL THE CHURCH NEEDS by themselves; they are supposed to serve WITH WOMEN, not in front of them or behind them. But the enemies of egalitarianism today seek to make “Adam” invincible, telling people that the church only needs men to lead. And the truth is, without women, the Body of Christ is still missing a great few of its members.

I will tackle the other reasons given by Kostenberger for patriarchalism in the posts to come.

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