Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Short History of Feminism, Pt. 2: CBMW's compromised foundations

How the Bible Versions Contribute to Liberalism and Feminism by Undermining Inerrancy

After watching the film about the 19th century women's movement, I went to the website of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in search of material on the history of feminism. Of course the preponderance of their work is aimed against feminism.

There I found Mary Kassian's book, The History of Feminism and the Church, where the material I've just covered from the film is reviewed; also a talk by Carolyn McCulley that outlines the movement and its various phases, three phases as she describes it, and also Wayne Grudem's book, Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism, an excerpt of which is here.

As I say in my previous post, it seems to me that the feminist movement was itself born of liberalism, so to consider that today's evangelical counterpart in the church could lead to theological liberalism is only to affirm the natural affinity between the two. Grudem traces the phenomenon in the growing practice of ordaining women ministers, and analyzes the various ways Biblical inerrancy and authority are undermined to allow this. A study found that
Biblically inerrant denominations are . . . resistant to formal gender equality.10 .... for "biblically inerrant denominations" the argument that the Bible prohibits the ordination of women is by far the most persuasive argument.11
Of course, what immediately comes to my mind because of my immersion in the Bible versions issues over the last months, is that there has to be a connection with this major influence against Biblical authority. The Bible versions hoax is the biggest Trojan horse ever parked inside the churches, and it is hard to believe that the influence of the liberal thinking that brought these versions to us would not have an undermining influence on Biblical thinking in general. One of the most jarring pieces of cognitive dissonance in the general acceptance of the modern Bible versions, it seems to me, is the fact that their very existence argues against Biblical inerrancy while the evangelical churches that so uncritically accept them nevertheless try to hold onto the idea of Biblical inerrancy without noticing that the foundation for it has been pulled out from under it.

If you can question the authority of the text that was held to be preserved by God up to the King James Bible, throw it all over in favor of the notion that it had been erroneous all those centuries and that only in the 19th century was it possible to begin to reconstruct the true originals, you've stabbed the very idea of Biblical inerrancy in the heart. And this is exactly what the Westcott and Hort revision of 1881 did. They planted doubt in all the Bibles up to their time. They claimed that their own favorite Alexandrian texts had to be the truest because they were the oldest, but that required them to come up with an explanation how it was that the traditional Byzantine texts existed in such great numbers and with such obvious church approval for so many centuries afterward. Their explanation was the completely hypothetical idea that the true texts (their cherished Alexandrians) were officially revised early on, meaning officially corrupted, and that this corrupt line became the basis for the Bibles in all languages including all the English Bibles through the King James. According to this hypothesis much was added to the text that didn't belong there.

As John Burgon points out, this very hypothesis defeats itself since it implies that the church leaders must have regarded the Alexandrian texts as the corrupt ones if they felt it necessary to reject them and try to reconstruct what they considered to be the authentic text, and in the third century they would still have had access to the earliest manuscripts to work from.

In any case, this is pure conjecture. There is no evidence for this hypothetical early revision; it rests absolutely on the unsupportable assumption that the Alexandrian texts are superior, and the evidence against that assumption is voluminous. Just read John Burgon. But the assumption has prevailed in the minds of those who accept the modern versions. And it would have to work its poison into their thinking in many subtle ways, insinuating that the Bible is not inerrant but subject to the same treatment as any man-made book, which is exactly the viewpoint aggressively endorsed by the revisers themselves.

The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood doesn't question the modern versions. Some probably have no idea of the anti-inerrancy textual criticism principles that underlie them, but it can't escape all awareness that so many versions can't all be right, and that fact in itself undermines Biblical inerrancy. So to my mind the Bible versions Trojan horse must contribute to the thinking that brings liberalism into the churches by justifying opinions that contradict the Bible. They hold firmly to Biblical inerrancy with the one hand while the other surreptitiously throws it away.

I also found at CBMW that they deny that women are literally to cover our heads, in favor of a culturist explanation that effectively renders meaningless the whole idea of the covering in 1 Corinthians 11, and this seems to me to be another way Biblical authority is undermined even while it is proclaimed. In fact this is an attitude that's similar to some of those Grudem outlines as the thinking that leads to liberalism. He lists two that seem most pertinent, one being "2. Saying that New Testament teachings are "seed ideas" showing that superior teaching would come later." If Paul really was calling for a literal head covering, and this is in fact recognized, but in our superior wisdom we know he really really was only affirming the cultural standard of his day, isn't this similar to judging that what the New Testament actually said needs our superior perspective to be fully grasped? It isn't quite the same as another of Grudem's points: "4. Saying that Paul was wrong" but almost.

This is relevant because CBMW makes much of the concept of male headship in their work, but 1 Corinthians 11 is where Paul defined the concept most particularly, arguing strenuously that headship authority is symbolized by the literal human head. The head of the man is to be uncovered because he is the glory of Christ and has headship over the woman, but the woman's head is to be literally covered in order to conceal her own glory and the glory of man which she is, and to show subordination to the man's authority. But CBMW and others who follow them have dropped the literal human head part (in favor of the vague "feminine dress" which ignores the head), yet they try to hold onto the headship idea.

Along with the leaking away of Bible inerrancy through the embrace of the Bible versions, it seems to me they've got a serious leak in the idea of male headship, and the poison of liberalism is already within their own house.