Mama’s Choice … Whose Choice?

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by Vyckie Garrison “A Woman’s Choice” is a central issue in contemporary American culture, religion, and politics. Our society values Choice as an imperative freedom. Although “liberated” women would never personally choose to forego birth control in favor of welcoming each and every pregnancy as an unmitigated blessing from God, and even though privately feminists [Read More...]

NLQ FAQ: Is No Longer Quivering an Atheist Website?

Reposting for those newer Patheos readers to know more about us and what we believe September 16, 2010 By Guest Contributor 19 Comments by Vyckie I recently r ece ived a n email from “Henrietta” who asked: If I choose to get involved here, contribute etc, am I part of a Christian but anti QFP group; or [Read More...]

NLQ FAQ: Does Someone Always Have To Be In Charge? Part 2

NO LONGER QUIVERING FAQ: DOES SOMEONE ALWAYS HAVE TO BE IN CHARGE? PART 2: HIERARCHY – ORIGINS, THE TRINITY AND MARRIAGE

by Kristen Rosser ~ aka KRwordgazer

God has ordained authority structures in every area of life.  In every enterprise someone has to be in charge– otherwise there will be anarchy and chaos. Even within the Godhead there is authority: God the Son submitted to the will of the Father. Doesn’t a solidly biblical worldview require a chain of command within the Christian family?  A family is not a democracy, after all.  In saying husbands should not be in charge of the home, aren’t you just attacking one aspect of God’s divine plan for authority?

In Part 1 we examined what the Bible actually teaches about authority, which we defined as “the power or right to command.” God in the Old Testament simply does not appear to be interested in setting up God-ordained human authority structures, but rather prefers to raise up individual, Spirit-led leaders who act in God’s authority, not as part of a top-down chain of command. And though the New Testament teaches submission to earthly institutions of human authority, its focus is on the new creation kingdom of God, in which hierarchies of human authority are eliminated in favor of equal brother-sister relationships.  In fact, though it can’t be denied that some areas of human life here on earth need some form of authority structure, there is simply no biblical justification for the concept that authority structures are ordained of God to cover every area of life, or that God has determined that there will be chaos if there isn’t “someone in charge” of every sphere of human relationship.

So where did the idea come from, that God has ordained top-down chains of command, both in earthly and in spiritual relationships, with human authority structures in every area of life?

Plato (429-347 BC) was possibly the greatest of the Greek philosophers. He conceived of the nature of reality to consist first of ideal “Forms,” and then objects/beings which were types of each ideal. Plato conceived of the Form of Absolute Good as the ultimate, universal object of human desire, and this Idea of the Good became synonymous with God in the writings of his student, Aristotle. In order to be the ultimate Good, God would, in Absolute generosity, also give existence to every other possible good thing. Aristotle then arranged all creatures into a graded scale according to how closely they approached “perfection.” The Neo-Platonists, a group of Greek philosophers in the 3rd-5th centuries AD, who expanded Plato and Aristotle’s ideas, particularly in terms of religion and spirituality, developed this notion further. Macrobius, a Neo-Platonist writing in the early fifth century AD, wrote:

“[T]he attentive observer will discover a connection of parts, from the Supreme God down to the last dregs of things, mutually linked together and without a break. And this is Homer’s golden chain, which God, he says, bade hang down from heaven to earth.” Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being, Harper & Brothers (1936) p. 63.

This idea of a graded, hierarchical creation came to be known as the “Great Chain of Being.” Alan Myatt, in his paper “On the Compatibility of Ontological Equality, Hierarchy and Functional Distinctions,” writes:

“As Greek philosophical notions were appropriated by early Christian apologists in their defense of the faith, it [the idea of the Great Chain of Being] eventually became entwined with the theology of the church and set the agenda for its theory of society. . . In the Middle Ages, this concept translated into the division of society into ‘Three Estates,’ each stratified according to the Chain of Being. The first estate consisted of church officials beginning with the pope. . . The second estate included the ruling classes of kings, nobility and knights, while the peasants and merchants made up the third estate. Any violation of the established authority within each estate was seen as a threat to the creation order, and subversive to the state and to the stability of Christian culture. Any attempt to leave one’s place in the chain was therefore an act of rebellion. It is critical to note that in the family, there was a hierarchical ordering of husband, wife, children and servants. Each was subordinate to the previous due to their immutable places in the Chain of Being.”

By Elizabethan times (1500s), the Chain of Being had become “one of those accepted commonplaces, more often hinted at or taken for granted than set forth.” (Tillyard, The Elizabethan World Picture, Vintage Books, page 26.) The Elizabethan philosophers and theologians envisioned not just a hierarchical gradation of beings, but a “primacy” within each specific class of beings, such as “the dolphin among fishes, the eagle among birds, the lion among beasts, the emperor among men.” Ibid, p. 29-30. This conception of hierarchy among the animals is never hinted at in the biblical creation story— but it became part of Christian/Western thought through the infusion of pagan philosophy. Even now we still think of the lion as “the king of beasts.”

Another “commonplace” assumption of Elizabethan times was that “the order in the state duplicates the order of the macrocosm.” Ibid, p. 88. The Homily of Obedience written in 1547 stated,

“In the earth God has assigned kings, princes with other governors under them, all in good and necessary order. The water above is kept and raineth down in due time and season. The sun, moon, stars, rainbow, thunder, lightening, clouds, and all birds of the air do keep their order.” Ibid, p. 88.

Thus, building upon Greek pagan thought, the idea of a hierarchical order of authority in every strata of human relations, based upon the order of creation, became infused with Christianity to the point where no one even thought to question it. This legacy became part of our Western conception of the universe, which still exists today. Alan Myatt notes that a hierarchical understanding of the universe is the tendency in eastern systems of thought as well, “so universal in human society that it could be said to be the default mode of human existence.” He adds that in our churches today, “Traditional hierarchical biblical interpretation has been filtered through the lens of a cultural vision of human relations compromised by a pagan worldview [which] effectively blinded it to the egalitarian implications of the biblical text.” In other words, hierarchical thinking is so natural for humans, and so much a part of our Western mentality, that we have been reading it back into the biblical texts ever since the end of the Age of the Apostles.

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NLQ FAQ: Does Someone Always Have To Be In Charge? Part 1

NO LONGER QUIVERING FAQ: DOES SOMEONE ALWAYS HAVE TO BE IN CHARGE? PART 1: HUMAN AUTHORITY IN THE BIBLE

by Kristen Rosser ~ aka KRwordgazer

God has ordained authority structures in every area of life.  In every enterprise someone has to be in charge– otherwise there will be anarchy and chaos. Even within the Godhead there is authority: God the Son submitted to the will of the Father. Doesn’t a solidly biblical worldview require a chain of command within the Christian family?  A family is not a democracy, after all.  In saying husbands should not be in charge of the home, aren’t you just attacking one aspect of God’s divine plan for authority?

It cannot be denied that human societies need some form of law, to protect people from being harmed by one another, among other things– and that laws need someone with the power to enforce them, or they are useless. But is this idea that “someone always has to be in charge,” that there is a chain of command in every area of human life, actually taught in the Bible?

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NLQ FAQ: The Bible & Accountability in Marriage – Part 2: The Marriage Covenant & Covenant Breaking

by Kristen Rosser ~ aka:KR Wordgazer

Part 1 of this FAQ addressed ideas for helping your marriage when following the teachings of Quiverfull does not work as you had understood it was supposed to. But the Bible does not teach that being a Christian is a formula, or that your actions will guarantee the response of someone else. Each person has his or her own choices to make, and ultimately, they are that person’s choices alone. You cannot force your husband to do the right thing, and this brings us to the very difficult question asked at the end of Part 1:

But what if my husband is completely unrepentant and refuses to change behaviors that, if I am honest with myself, I must admit are harming my children, our marriage and myself? Is there anything I can do then?

The Bible regards marriage as a solemn contract, or covenant. A covenant is a kind of treaty between two parties, characterized by promises that need to be kept. When a covenant has been violated– when one of the parties breaks the covenant promises so frequently, callously or heinously that the wronged party must consider it irrevocably broken– there are ways for the one who has been wronged to end the covenant. Marriage is no different. In Jeremiah 3, Israel’s covenant with God is pictured as a marriage contract. God had kept His covenant promises, but Israel had continually broken them without repentance or any attempt to right the wrongs. In verse 8 God says, “And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce. . . .” God describes Himself here as the wronged party in a marriage covenant. The promises of the covenant had been broken beyond repair– not by God, but by Israel. God’s divorce of Israel did not break the covenant; it merely acknowledged that the covenant had been broken. But God nevertheless described Himself as getting a divorce. Since God would never sin, it could not have been wrong for Him to get a divorce– because He was not the one who broke the covenant. Covenant-breaking is a wrong that we must avoid; but when the other party has irretrievably broken the covenant, the wronged party is not obligated to pretend that the covenant is intact. It is up to the wronged party to decide when enough is enough. Forgiveness is important, but forgiveness alone will not restore a broken covenant. The party who broke the covenant must repent and bear the fruit of repentance, showing a real desire to change his ways and beginning to honor the covenant again. Israel refused to do so in Jeremiah 3, and the Bible gives us a picture of God finally deciding that enough was enough, and withdrawing from His covenant with Israel.

But doesn’t God say, “I hate divorce” in the Book of Malachi? And didn’t Jesus say, “what God has joined together, let not man separate’”?

We will examine more closely what Jesus said shortly, after examining the shared understandings He and His audience would have been working under, that we today may be missing (see the FAQ “Quiverfull and the Bible” for more about original intent and shared understandings between the author and audience of biblical texts). As for Malachi 3:11-16, here is what it says: “Judah hath dealt treacherously. . . and hath married the daughter of a strange god. . . Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously; yet she is thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. . . Therefore take heed your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the Lord, the God of Israel saith that he hateth putting away, for one covereth violence with his garment. . .”

God was angry because in this case, the divorce itself was a breaking of the marriage covenant, for the women who were being divorced had done no wrong. Instead, it was the men divorcing their wives without cause who were doing wrong, committing treachery against the covenant by marrying other women. It was the breaking of the covenant that God hated, for He looked at it as tantamount to committing violence and then covering it over. When the marriage covenant has not been broken, then divorce itself breaks the covenant and is therefore wrong. But in the case where the covenant is already broken, divorce could not be wrong, or God would not have spoken of Himself as initiating a divorce.

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