Thursday, January 26, 2017

People Whom One Cannot Instruct

Perhaps if we dropped this on their heads ...
Wayne Grudem devoted years of his life to understanding and expositing a single word in a single verse.

Why, you may ask? Good question.

In an article entitled “Personal Reflections on the History of CBMW and the State of the Gender Debate”, Grudem asks himself the same thing: “Why did I spend so much time on this?”

What he discovered is that nobody’s listening. At least, nobody’s listening that wasn’t listening already.

Neighbours Writing Lies

When Wayne Grudem first realized his Christian neighbours were promoting false teaching, he generously assumed their misinterpretations of Ephesians 5:23 and 1 Corinthians 11:3 were honest errors.

Grudem’s neighbours were Berkeley and Alvera Mickelsen. The wife was a journalism teacher, the husband a seminary professor. Together, they wrote an article published in Christianity Today back in October 1979 that provides the false doctrinal basis for the evangelical feminist rebellion often referred to as Egalitarianism. The Mickelsens argued that the New Testament does not teach the submission of Christian wives to their husbands, and that the Greek word kephalē, usually translated “head”, should actually be translated “source”.

Grudem knew this was baloney, so he set out to help. So, over the next sixteen years, he published no less than 132 pages of lexicographical research in academic journals on the word kephalē, in which he demonstrates repeatedly and conclusively that in the New Testament, “head” ALWAYS carries the meaning of “authority”. There are no exceptions. Not a single one. The Mickelsens were wrong.

The reaction of the evangelical community was a resounding “meh”.

Settling the Debate Forever

As Grudem puts it:
“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 is indeed significant, but what it’s telling us is hardly a new phenomenon. It is one thing to have information and quite another to act on it. It is one thing to know the revealed will of God and quite another to obey it.

Information and Happiness

Solomon had more pure information to work with than any single man who has ever lived. The writer of 1 Kings describes the great king of Israel this way:
“God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.”
Solomon was a biologist, a botanist, a sage, a poet, a master politician, and quite possibly an architect, not to mention he knew a fair bit about human relations. He had no peers, and no competition in the areas in which he was an authority. So far as information goes, Solomon was chock full of it. Further, I am fully confident he had no difficulty discerning (at least theoretically) how to govern his own household in a manner that would please God and produce optimal long-term results for his wives and children.

Aaaaaand … we all know how that went. No amount of information, even divine revelation, will help you if you decline to act on it.

The Eternal Optimist

The neat trick we do when we’re bound and determined to go our own way is that we rationalize like gangbusters. Wayne Grudem has dealt with every possible scholarly objection along the way, and has become more convinced than ever about what the scripture teaches with respect to the roles of husbands and wives. Nobody on the other side has been able to deal effectively with his arguments, so they simply ignore them. And feminism continues to make major inroads in evangelicalism.

Amazingly, Grudem does not despair:
“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!

I still believe it will happen.”
I’m not sure I am as optimistic as Mr. Grudem on that front, but then I suspect he’s postmillennial, so that makes sense. But I just do not picture entire local churches, entire denominations or especially entire movements as being particularly amenable to the influence of streams of facts, however reflective of reality those facts may be.

Knowing and Doing

Solomon was wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, but if Ethan had one submissive wife and loved her, he almost surely had a more desirable domestic situation than Solomon. Arguments, facts, exegesis and truth are lovely things, but they require a practical, real-life response to be of benefit.

Aristotle said this:
“Before some audiences not even the possession of the exactest knowledge will make it easy for what we say to produce conviction. For argument based on knowledge implies instruction, and there are people whom one cannot instruct.”
When God addressed Solomon after blessing him with what amounted to an information overload, he reminded him of this:
“If you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father.”
Obviously, those who deny the ways of God cannot possibly benefit from them. But even those who know them and acknowledge them as truth derive no practical benefit unless they put boots on that knowledge: “Walk in my statutes. Obey my rules.”

What I AM sure of is that those who honor the teaching of the word of God will themselves be honored. Wives who obey their husbands will be happier than wives who don’t. Husbands who lead and love their wives will be happier than husbands who don’t. Marriages in which both parties conduct themselves in keeping with the true meaning of kephalē will flourish, and marriages that don’t will languish.

God is not mocked. And for those of us who accept the truth he confirmed, Wayne Grudem’s time was not wasted.

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