Monthly Archives: October 2019

The Woman and the Vow

Having heard yet again that Numbers 30 teaches that every woman is under a “covenant head” who has absolute authority over every decision she makes, I decided to correct that and draw your attention to the text itself.

Before my meager comments, I would suggest that you read the passage for yourself. I’ll wait.

Now, you may have heard it taught that this means that a woman under her father’s headship until she is married and then that transfers to her husband. You may have heard it said that this teaches that a father can annul a marriage or a credit application or a rental agreement.

You may have heard that it teaches a thing called “covenantal headship”, even though the scripture only speaks of Adam and Christ as covenant heads.

But a simple reading of the passage shows that it teaches no such thing.

First, notice that it is said twice that it refers to young women still at home, or married women. God specifically, by name, excludes widows and divorced or otherwise single women, (verse 9-10; verse 16) assuming that they have enough wisdom and understanding to make their own vows. They are bound to their vows, which shows that God values the voice of a woman far more than most patriarchialists.

Second, this is a passage that has to do with vows. A vow had a specific religious meaning in scripture. To quote from Nelson’s dictionary (or any other bible dictionary you might have),

A vow is “a solemn promise or pledge that binds a person to perform a specified act or behave in a certain manner….All vows were made to God as a promise in expectation of his favor (Gen. 28:20) or in thanksgiving for his blessing (Psalm 119:12-14)…Vowing is joyful worship in faith and love (Psalm 61:4-5, 8)”

In other words, a vow is a specific act of worship. The whole point of Numbers 30 (and you can also look at Eccl. 5:4-6) is that when one makes a vow, one is bound to perform it, for God has no pleasure in fools. This is important to remember. Look again at Numbers 30 verse 2 for the context of what I am about to say.

Scripture gives several examples of these kinds of vows. Jacob took one. Jephthah took a foolish one. Even the Apostle Paul took a vow and traveled to Jerusalem to perform it (Acts 18:18). A vow is a specific act of worship and devotion.

But there is one example of a vow taken by a woman married to a husband that would be very helpful to analyze for this discussion. Hannah took a vow that if the Lord opened her womb, she would dedicate the child to the Lord to serve in the Temple every day of his life (1 Sam. 1). It was a vow of faith by a woman who was a prophet. In her mouth and in her heart, she longed for a redeemer to come out of Zion and she knew somehow that the child that the Lord would give her would lead to that end (See her song in 1 Sam. 2).

This was a vow of worship made by a woman of faith, who was also living with a husband, Elkanah. This would be a direct application of Numbers 30. So let’s look at it from that perspective.

A vow made in the temple before the Lord is a serious thing, and Hannah is bound to perform it. But the vow also involved Elkanah. After all, it was his child as well. Suppose he was furious, and absolutely refused to give his son to the Lord. That would be his right to do so. Vows, after all, were voluntary. If Elkanah was adamantly opposed to the vow, this could cause great trouble to Hannah.

What could she do? She could infuriate, disappoint, frustrate, anger her husband and live with the consequences, or she could go back on her vow and disobey God – which, as we have said, is an offense that God does not take lightly.

It would seem that she would be in a horrible mess.

And this is where Numbers 30 comes in. If the woman is still under her father’s roof, or has a husband, her vow does not just affect her. If the father or husband refuse, she is no longer bound to her vow. God accepts her and loves her and honors her and wants her to be at peace in her home.

It is interesting that God does not forbid women from making vows. He assumes that she has property and goods and strength and the ability to keep the vow. He doesn’t even teach that she should “check with her husband first”.

God cares for the wives and daughters, who are in  his image and also called to have dominion. He honors their voice and their worship; he accepts their sacrifices of praise and he hears and honors their vows. They are called to take that very seriously.

But God also knows that a vow – since it usually involved money, goods, livestock or perhaps even children – also affected the husband or the father. If he was of the possessive sort or simply did not want to give up the goods, she was no longer bound, but free.

For God would have us be free, not in bondage.

On another note, since the Temple worship and the sacrifices and priesthood involved with it all are no longer part of the worship of God, having been abolished by Christ, the vow as practiced by Israel no longer applies. But we can still live in peace and freedom which is what God would have of us.

Never let anyone bring you back under the yoke of bondage, no matter how many letters they have on their name.

And one more thing, it is very beneficial to read the scripture for yourselves and see if it actually says what you have been told it says. Don’t be threatened by credentials. You also are led by the spirit. Search the scriptures, and see if these things be so (Acts 17:11).

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Filed under Marriage, Men and women, Patriarchy

Love and service

As many of you know, my daughter is recovering from a horrible disease, that has left her brain damaged. We do not know if it is permanent yet. Today she took the initiative and got her own lunch, did her own grooming and folded her own laundry. My heart almost burst with how well she is doing.

My wife, though, has so much pain in her foot that every step is excruciating. She lives with pain that most of us will never experience. She has two dislocated toes that are not healing and the joints have been damaged so that they will not stay where they are supposed to. The doctor has ordered her to stay off of it.

That is challenging, to say the least, because someone needs to care for Margaret. Fortunately, I have a laundry system in place, I am an excellent cook, I know how to vacuum and do it frequently. Susan can sit with Margaret and teach her to read and write again, and I can do the housework and cook and clean. If Susan will follow that plan, her foot can start to heal.

But she is a hard woman to keep down. She has dragons to slay.

 

It reminds me of several years ago. I had a birthday, and Susan and my daughters gave me a huge surprise party. It was wonderful.

It was right in the middle of a huge flare of Susan’s CRPS. Please look it up if you don’t remember it. It is a brutal and excruciating health condition. We went to Italy for the cure.

By the time the guests had arrived and I had gotten there (thoroughly surprised) I could tell by her eyes that she had had enough and her pain was through the roof. I took her to a quiet place and made her sit.

I welcomed everyone, prayed for the meal, and fixed a plate to take to Susan. One man was looking at me with contempt. He sneered to a friend of mine, “Anyone that would take food to his wife is a pussy.”

That was when I realized that this patriarchial, chest-thumping, posturing, posing, “men are to be men and women are to be women” garbage was not just wrong. It was dangerous, unloving, hateful, and set on fire from the depths of hell.

And today I have no patience for it.

I cannot stand the masculine and feminine ontology garbage, as if that is actually a biblical category.

I cannot stand the bullying and the posing and the chest-thumping.

I cannot stand the name calling and the posturing.

What exactly is it that men are supposed to be doing again? What exactly is it that women are supposed to be doing again?

Tell me about how she needs to be “keeper at home” one more time. Tell me about your ideal little fantasy world and about the ontology of my wife. Please enlighten me with your ivory tower back-slapping and speculation and the twisting of the scripture to fit your comfort level. Tell me again about how the men slay the dragons and the women are to be rescued while my wife fights day and night for the life of her daughter. Tell me again about the priority and superiority of men. We are all very impressed down here on earth.

The rest of us are trying to survive. Most of us in the history of the world have not had the luxury of pontificating in our easy chairs while the little woman fixes us a sandwich.

So when you are writing your theses, the rest of us will get on with surviving. I will continue to serve my wife and take the contempt of the mindless drones who cannot see the beauty of the gospel past their own tribe and their own experiences.

I will continue to nurse my daughter back to health and continue to try to get my wife to stay off of her feet so she can heal.

So go back to quoting all of the church fathers and drinking your trendy microbrews through your manly beards while your cowed wives and children kneel tremblingly at your feet. If that floats your boat, go ahead. Don’t be surprised to wake up and find she isn’t there any more. But that isn’t my business.

My dryer just rang, so I will fold clothes. Tonight for dinner I am making mushroom risotto. My risotto is fabulous.

I will probably listen to Air Supply while I am doing it. When I get my family settled, I will pull out my books and my computer again and work on my sermon.

You do your thing.

I’ll do mine.

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Filed under Encephalitis journey, Men and women

Beyond Authority and Submission–answer to critics

I endorsed this book by Rachel Green Miller and would do so again. I am not so sure that anyone cares about that. But it is a great book and it should be engaged slowly and thoughtfully.

Unfortunately. she has received an avalanche of ugly, hasty and unthoughful pushback from those who claim the name of Christ. The hatred shown on social media reminds me of the Heidelberg Catechism QA 5  “…I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor.”

The dogma of Total Depravity is alive and well in Reformed circles when it comes to engaging with intelligent women.

But that really isn’t the point of this post, though I did want to mention it and caution those who claim the name of Christ.

The purpose of this post is as a bookmark and a reference to point you to three brilliant responses to one reviewer, Mark Jones.

I know that many will dismiss these voices because of their sex, but I would caution you not to do that. Remember that the disciples first thought that the women were just joking and were rebuked by Christ for not believing them.

I will not add a “man’s voice” here because these women are perfectly capable and able to slay this dragon.

First, here is Aimee Byrd:

As Mark is perplexed as to why Rachel didn’t get into theological anthropology or doesn’t address certain passages, so too I am perplexed that he doesn’t really even engage with the main thrust of her book, as if it may all be dismissed by her inferiority. In fact, he uses the title of her book as an insult, as if the whole idea of looking at the relationship of men and women beyond the categories of authority and submission is an ontological error that is in opposition to all of church history.

Second, here is Kerry Baldwin:

There is a continual problem in these discussions and unfortunately Jones is not immune from making them either. It’s all too common for Complementarian/Patriarchalist advocates to misapply feminism as a counter argument when feminism isn’t being argued for. Jones’ review illustrates this problem precisely. He opens with two terms: “radical feminism” and “toxic masculinity.” Why?

And finally (in the order that I read them, not in order of priority) here is Dr Valerie Hobbs:

The issue I take with Mark Jones, beyond his (quite frankly) arrogant writing style is that he does not grasp just how thoroughly Biblical Rachel is encouraging us to think. In this sense, his attempt at scholarly engagement is poor.

That’s it. These writers are thoughtful, biblical, confessional, and should be heard. Not because they are women, not in spite of the fact they are women, but because they are right.

Before you dismiss them, prayerfully and humbly consider what they have to say.

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Filed under Book Notes