An Invitation to Christian Feminists

An Invitation to Christian Feminists May 24, 2013

For the week of June 10, I am turning this blog over to feminist and womanist authors.

Some, whom I already read, I have already invited to post. Others, whom I do not (yet) read, can submit posts here. If I receive more entries that I can reasonably post, I have a small group of people (not me) who will sort through and select the entries.

Each post will be unedited. Criticism of me and my work is acceptable, as is criticism of the emergent movement. I’d prefer it if ad hominem criticism were avoided. Ad hominem criticism of others will not be accepted.

For those who have validly wondered if this blog is a safe space for female voices, I will not be actively moderating the comments. Nor will I be commenting. I will be reading, and listening.

If you are a Christian (or post-Christian, or non-Christian) feminist (or womanist), I hope that you will consider contributing a post.

Also, be sure and bookmark Fred’s Bonfire List.

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  • Tony, are you planning to clarify what you mean by ad hominem? Because ad hominem is one of those logical fallacies that people trot out whenever they feel they are being attacked, but ad hominem is actually a technical term and not just shorthand for “stop being mean.”

    I just want clarification, because there are times when where a person sits and who a person is colors and shapes their arguments, and bringing that up and pointing out that it creates blind spots is not ad hominem, though it can skirt the line. But I’d like to at least feel as though you were defining ad hominem technically and not just conveniently, because if not it’s all too easy to say that something was ad hominem, and therefore crass and unacceptable, when what you really mean is that it hurts someone’s feelings.

    Which is not to say that hurting people’s feelings should be the goal of anyone. Just that sometimes people’s feelings get hurt, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that someone’s person was being attacked in place of someone’s argument.

    • Guest

      Looking forward to this!

    • jtheory

      I too would like a definition of ad hominem. I think in all fairness that you should let your “team” decide. And I’d like that team to be people that don’t always agree with you, or are overly defensive of you. 🙂

    • Here’s a working definition:

      Basically, I don’t want someone using a post to simply call someone else an asshole. While it may be true, it doesn’t advance the conversation.

      I’m not afraid of having my feelings hurt. That’s not why I mentioned ad hominem.

      • Thanks for the clarity. It’s just that “ad hominem” gets thrown around on blogs all the time with very little conceptual clarity aside from “I don’t like what is being said.”

        • Craig

          Nice point Madison. Rather than attacking the content of a person’s argument, sometimes it’s appropriate to attack the tastefulness or tone of the argument, or to call into question the motives of the person making the argument, or to point out that a person lacks the “standing” to make a certain kind of claim (usually an indictment of hypocrisy, or a claim that the person lacks adequate background, perspective, or information to speak on the issue). Sometimes even straightforward name-calling is wonderfully appropriate, as when someone really is behaving like an asshole.

          So I like the idea of better clarifying the ground rules. Or, rather than a hard and fast rule, perhaps a guideline is better. How about this: Strive to direct your criticisms to the content of a person’s arguments – as opposed, especially, to the tone, motives, character, or background of the person making the argument. See to it that any exceptions are strongly justified, and be prepared to make that case.

          • Scot Miller

            Craig, one of the assumptions of rational discourse from the time of Plato through the Enlightenment to today is that rational arguments stand or fall on their own. The character of the person presenting the argument, or the “tastefulness or tone of the argument” or the “standing” of the person making the argument, are entirely irrelevant to the argument. It may be emotionally or psychologically persuasive to draw attention to the person making the argument (or even to the “tone” of the argument), but it is really logically irrelevant to the argument. What you are describing as “appropriate” has been called sophistry by Socrates, or circumstantial ad hominems by later logicians.

            For example, suppose the issue in dispute is whether I need to quit smoking and lose weight. I go to my doctor, who makes the argument that I should lose weight because smoking and obesity have been established to be contributing factors in heart disease and lung cancer. But my doctor smokes a pack of cigarettes a day and is morbidly obese. If the ISSUE is whether it’s a good idea to lose weight and quit smoking, then the argument will be good regardless of whether the spokesperson is telling me this as he is eating a box of donuts and smoking a cigarette or not. The only time it’s logically relevant to speak about the person making the argument (or the circumstances of the person making the argument, or the source of the argument) is if their character is AT ISSUE. In other words, it is one thing to ask whether I should lose weight and quit smoking, and it’s another thing to ask whether my doctor is a hypocrite or a man of good character. It may be true that I should quit smoking and it may be true that the doctor is an obnoxious hypocrite, but the truth of the latter has no bearing on the doctor’s argument.

            If I said, “My doctor is wrong because he’s obviously a hypocrite. and his tone is mean-spirited,” then I would commit an ad hominem fallacy, because I would be rejecting an argument by pointing to the person making the argument rather than pointing out the problem in the argument itself.

            Sophists would “win” arguments by derailing the discussion attacking the person rather than what they said. They “win” because they distract the listener from the real point in dispute. That’s why it’s never a good idea to think that attacking the person (or drawing attention to the person instead of what they are saying) is somehow relevant.

            • Craig

              Scot, what you’re giving us is, or is very close to, a tautology: criticisms of an argument’s content should be criticisms of an argument’s content. But there can be fully appropriate criticisms not of the argument’s content but rather of something else entirely, e.g., the argument’s timing, tone, relevance, or the character or the motives or the standing of the person making the argument. So we can reply to your near-tautology with one of our own: criticism of a person’s character should be criticism of a person’s character. Surely you don’t doubt that criticisms of a person’s character (etc.) are sometimes in order.

              • Scot Miller

                Craig, I think you misunderstand what a tautology is. A tautology is a claim whose predicate simply restates the subject (A is A), or a statement which is necessarily true by virtue of the words used (e.g., a triangle is a 3-sided figure in plane geometry). I am stating what logicians have been saying for centuries, that criticisms of arguments have to be relevant to the issue at hand. (It would be a tautology if I said, “Criticisms of arguments have to be criticisms.”) Not all criticisms are relevant. to the issue at hand. Changing the subject from the issue to the person making the argument is not logically relevant to the issue.

                As I said earlier, it may be relevant to criticize a person making an argument, but doing so changes the issue being discussed. For example, it is important to assess the credibility of someone making a claim, since credibility has a bearing on the weight one can give to a claim. When someone with a medical degree from an accredited institution makes a claim that is widely supported in the medical community, it is reasonable to accept their claims. However, if an M.D. makes an unusual medical claim that is widely rejected in the medical community (e.g., “Vaccines cause autism”), their credentials do not give strength to their claims. But if the source of my medical information is an internet web page or a celebrity, then it that weakens the weight given to the claim. But it would be a fallacy for me to accept a medical claim as true or false simply because someone is an M.D. or a celebrity. The celebrity may be using true claims in her argument, and the M.D. may be using false or dubious claims in her argument.

                Criticisms of a person’s character (etc.) are irrelevant to their arguments. At most, criticisms of a persons’ character are relevant to their credibility, and serve to weaken (or strengthen) the confidence we can have in particular claims they make in their argument.

                • Craig

                  Notice, if you replace “should be” with “is” you have straightforward, simple tautologies. Hence I wrote, “near-tautology.” What your logicians speak of is what is relevant to the validity or the soundness of an argument. That is, their concern is with what I am calling the “content” of the argument (I use this term broadly so as to include what logicians might also call the form of the argument). But, as any sensible logician would concede, there are other things in the world besides the validity and soundness of arguments that sometimes merit criticism. When these other things are criticized, it can therefore be a fallacy to criticize those criticisms as targeting something other than the content of the argument. This is the fallacy you commit in your persistence about your near-tautology.

                  • Scot Miller

                    Craig, you do realize that you have really established that my conclusion is NOT a tautology. My conclusion, “Criticizing a person, or drawing attention to features of the person making an argument, is not logically relevant to evaluating their argument,” is far from a tautology. I have to argue for it. If it were a tautology, it would not only be self-evidently true, it would be impossible to conceive of a situation in which the tautology would be false. You clearly can conceive of a situation where “Criticizing a person making an argument is relevant to evaluating the argument itself.” So thanks for helping me show that I’m not offering a definition or tautology. I’m making a significant point about when drawing attention away from an argument to the person making the argument is relevant. The answer: only when the issue is the person’s character.

                    I’m not saying that attacking the person or criticizing a person’s character, tone, etc., isn’t psychologically persuasive. I’d bet that casual listeners would be quite persuaded by such rhetorical tricks. I’m simply reporting that these tricks have long been recognized to be fallacies, i.e., errors in reasoning where the evidence being presented (i.e., the personal attack, criticism of character, etc.) is not demonstrably relevant to the argument being presented.

                    I’m not sure what “sensible logician” you’re talking about who would find criticizing the person or their tone relevant. The whole point of logic and critical thinking is to evaluate claims in an argument, not the person making the claims. Sometimes the conclusion necessarily follows from premises (as in deductive arguments, where the conclusion is shown to be contained in the premises, as in geometrical arguments), and sometimes the conclusion probably follows from the premises (as in inductive arguments). Worrying about the “tone” of the argument or the person making the argument have no bearing whatsoever on whether the argument is good or bad. The biggest scoundrel in the universe can offer a good argument.

                    • Craig

                      Scott, I think you’re not reading very carefully.

                    • Scot Miller

                      All I know is that it’s possible for someone to be a complete asshole and yet have a good argument, and it’s possible to be one of the nicest, most compassionate person with a heart of gold and still have a crappy argument. That’s why ad hominems are never a good idea.

                    • Craig

                      Scot, if you carefully re-read these exchanges of ours, you’ll notice that your claims fail to engage the statements I have made. So, while I don’t dispute the content of near-tautologies (I never have), I offer the following criticism: your claims are both trivial and, in the present context, out of place. When, therefore, I suggest that this is the result of your failure to read with due care, this is an appropriate criticism of you. While such a criticism refuses to debate your trivial claims, it instead offers a reason for this refusal. So, you see, sometimes it is entirely appropriate to criticize something other than the soundness or validity of another person’s argument.

                    • Scot Miller

                      Craig, I’m offering an argument about why ad hominems are bad. Your response is, “But you aren’t reading me very carefully,” which somehow amounts to a criticism of me but not my argument, which you also seem to find “trivial” (albeit without any argument). Unfortunately, I’m not sure how that amounts to a criticism of me or my argument. If I’m not reading your comments carefully, then the proper response is to point out where I’ve gotten off track and help me. Unfortunately, I’ve been very careful to respond to your comments, and I’ve taken care to explain my arguments with illustrations. Rather than being “trivial” (which is the point of your “near tautology” classification…. which is actually quite humorous, sort of like being “nearly pregnant”), this goes to the heart of Tony’s request about posts not amounting to ad hominems. Moreover, without addressing my actual argument, you must tacitly agree that I have a good argument, since you can’t seem to come up with one good reason why I’m mistaken. (I can misread your point, but still have a good argument that is addressing a different point than you’re making.)

                      Perhaps our dispute or misunderstanding is that you are not really talking about arguments, only about whether we are justified in criticizing someone, regardless of what they have to say. (After all, you “criticized” me for not reading you very carefully, but never really addressed my argument, except for the unsupported assertion that it was “trivial.”) I think arguments matter, so that’s why your initial comments bothered me. You don’t seem to understand that you are simply defending sophistry and fallacies as if they were good arguments.

                    • Craig

                      Scot, the problem with trying to correct a non-careful reader is that one must first get that person to carefully read. I know of no better way of doing this than asking you to state, as precisely and as straightforwardly as possible, two things: (1) what it is that is problematic with my position, and (2) where it is, exactly, that you find me adopting that position. If you believe that there are multiple problems with my position, then I’d ask you to back up and isolate the problem which appears chronologically first. If you do these straightforward tasks, I will address the criticism. If you cannot manage these tasks, then I will bow out of this discussion.

                    • Scot Miller


                      1. You said:

                      Rather than attacking the content of a person’s argument, sometimes it’s appropriate to attack the tastefulness or tone of the argument, or to call into question the motives of the person making the argument, or to point out that a person lacks the “standing” to make a certain kind of claim (usually an indictment of hypocrisy, or a claim that the person lacks adequate background, perspective, or information to speak on the issue). Sometimes even straightforward name-calling is wonderfully appropriate, as when someone really is behaving like an asshole.

                      This entire statement is mistaken. In fact, this is exactly the description of what ad hominem arguments are… except you think such attacks are “appropriate,” a notion of which I am trying (unsuccessfully) to disabuse you.

                      2. You do qualify this error when you advise us to

                      See to it that any exceptions [i.e., occasions to make personal attacks] are strongly justified, and be prepared to make that case.

                      My point: there is never a logical justification for personal attacks.

                      Some of Tony’s critics may think he is an asshole, but that’s irrelevant to the positions he takes. It does not help further the discussion to make personal attacks.

                    • Craig

                      Since you believe that the quoted statement under point 1 is entirely mistaken, this must be your position: It is never, under any circumstance, appropriate to do any of the following: (a) attack the tastefulness or tone of an argument; (b) call into question the motives of the person making the argument, or (c) to point out that a person lacks staking to make a certain kind of claim, (d) call someone an asshole.

                      Do you affirm, without qualification, the claim in bold?

                    • Scot Miller

                      If you have been reading my comments carefully, you already know the answer to that question. 🙂 None of these attacks are logically relevant to an argument. To be specific: (a) amounts to a criticism of style, which has more to do with psychological persuasion than rational support; (b) is what is usually called a circumstantial ad hominem; and (d) is what is usually called an abusive ad hominem. As I said at length earlier, your item (c) is relevant when it comes to credibility, but it is a fallacy to reject an argument (or to accept the argument) because of the credentials of the speaker. (Questioning credibility may lead me to suspend judgment about the conclusion, but I shouldn’t accept or reject the argument because of the credibility of the speaker.)

                      In other words, as a matter or logic and rational support, none of these practices are “appropriate,” since they are utterly irrelevant to the argument.

                      A reasonable person can acknowledge when an asshole has a good argument, and a saint a bad argument. What matters is whether the claims offered as evidence in the argument are relevant to the conclusion of the argument.

                    • Craig

                      Your reply suggests that you affirm, without qualification, the claim in bold. Your supporting reasoning for that affirmation is, however, entirely inadequate. Let me explain.

                      We can distinguish an argument from various other things associated with the argument (its tone, relevance, the motives of the person offering it, etc.). When I refer to the former in contrast to the latter, I clarify this by speaking of “the argument’s content.” Here, then, is a near-tautology that I accept: to criticize an argument’s content, one should criticize the argument’s content (as opposed to motives, tone, etc.). More loosely, we might say that all that is relevant to an argument’s content is the argument’s content. Out of this truth, we might conclude that–in order to criticize an argument’s content–it is inappropriate to criticize anything else (like motives, tone, etc.) But none of this entails the further conclusion that it is never appropriate to criticize anything besides the content of an argument. Likewise, your reasoning does not secure the claim in bold.

                      On what other grounds, then, do you affirm the claim in bold?

                    • Scot Miller

                      Craig, I’m working from assumption that what you call “the argument’s content” matters in evaluating an argument, but what you call the “various other things” are distractions to the argument. In rational discourse what matters are good reasons, evidence, and arguments. The things that you think are good to criticize are irrelevant to whether the argument is good or not.

                      Any rational person can evaluate the evidence and reasons given in an argument, because they don’t depend on anyone’s authority or feeling or emotion. But when you start worrying about the “tone” of an argument, you’re really asking someone to share your subjective response to something you perceive. For example, one person may have great admiration for the confidence and conviction with which someone makes their case, but another person may read the same person and say, “What an asshole.” It’s difficult to criticize the conflicting emotional responses, since that’s just how someone happens to respond. On the other hand, if someone is talking about whether same sex couples should be legally married, the question is whether the reasons one provides give good support for the conclusion or not. Someone may think a supporter is “angry” or “strident” or “mean spirited,” but the question is whether they have good reasons for their position or not.

                      I suppose you could criticize the tone or motivations or character of someone, but it only serves to distract the critic from the real issue in the argument.

                    • Craig

                      Let me then try to reconstruct your argument for the claim in bold above.

                      1. Criticisms of things other than an argument’s content only serve to distract from the evaluation of that argument.

                      2. It is never good to be distracted from that argument.

                      3. Therefore, criticisms of things other than an argument’s content are always inappropriate.

                      Both premises are clearly problematic. Can you amend the reconstruction so as to secure the claim in bold above?

                    • Scot Miller


                      I think you are misconstruing my argument. Here’s a clearer version:

                      1. If some claim X is logically irrelevant to evaluating an argument, then X is inappropriate as an evaluation of that argument.

                      2. Criticisms of things other than an argument’s content are logically irrelevant to evaluating that argument.

                      3. Therefore, criticisms of things other than an argument’s content are logically irrelevant to evaluating that argument.

                      As you can see, I’m concerned with the argument and the proper evaluation of the argument. I have no problem with complaining about the person who offers the argument, just with thinking that those complaints somehow allow you to reject the argument. Complain away about the person, but the argument evaluation still has to be done.

                    • Craig

                      Then you don’t affirm without qualification the claim in bold above. You should therefore retract your “the entire statement is mistaken” claim and take another stab at this:

                      state, as precisely and as straightforwardly as possible, two things: (1) what it is that is problematic with my position, and (2) where it is, exactly, that you find me adopting that position.

                    • Scot Miller

                      Craig, I’m not sure you’re reading very carefully what I’m saying. Everything you wrote in your first paragraph is still mistaken from the standpoint of logical support, because everything you list is logically irrelevant to the evaluation of an argument. So I stand by my argument. Remember, I’m strictly addressing the question of logical relevance.

                      But let me help you out. Maybe you should criticize my argument as being excessively rooted in Modernity (and hence makes dubious assumptions about rationality). Janice Moulton might say that I am offering an “Adversary Paradigm” of rationality and argument, which “affects the kinds of questions asked and determines the kinds of answers that are thought to be acceptable.” The kind of rationality which for which I’m arguing inappropriately narrows the issues to narrow arguments and ignores entire systems of thought which go into reasoning (e.g., patriarchal and racial biases). In other words, I’m arguing that what is “reasonable” is really what has been defined by privileged white males, which necessarily excludes matters of “tone” or circumstance, etc. from consideration.

                      The notion of rationality which I’ve been defending to this point therefore has limited scope, and may benefit from attention to larger, less adversarial paradigms which open up different kinds of rationality.

                      If this is what you’re trying to do, then I stand corrected.

                    • Craig

                      Here’s why I say that you don’t affirm without qualification the statement in bold. First, the argument you give two comments up entirely fails to secure that statement in bold. That should be obvious. Second, when you add, “from the standpoint of logical support” this is a huge qualification. As far as I can tell, with that qualification all you’re still saying is that, for the purposes of only criticizing the content of an argument, one should criticize only the content of the argument. In other words, you’re still harping on about the near-tautology.

                    • Craig

                      Here’s an easy way to appreciate what’s going on. I claim that it is sometimes appropriate to criticize someone for being an asshole. You say that this claim is entirely mistaken. In order to say this, you must affirm, without qualification, that it is never, under any circumstance, appropriate to criticize someone for being an asshole. But all you can manage to argue is that in a very particular context it isn’t appropriate to criticize someone for being an asshole. What’s that particular context? Answer: the context in which the only goal is to only criticize the content of an argument. And, while you may pat yourself on the back for persistently defending this near-tautology, it was never under dispute.

                    • Scot Miller

                      Craig, you have accused me of not reading you very carefully, and all I can say is that you haven’t read what I’ve said, either. If someone is offering an argument, and I point out that that person is a pompous ass, have I somehow undermined or rejected that person’s argument? No. “But,” you claim, “that person really is a pompous ass. Doesn’t that justify my criticizing him as a pompous ass.” Yes, if the issue you want to discuss is if that person is an ass or not. But that’s not evaluating his argument. That’s changing the subject (from the argument to the person).

                      Sometimes it feels good to call an asshole an asshole because that person actually is an asshole. My point is that calling an asshole an asshole is unfortunately logically irrelevant to evaluating that asshole’s argument.

                      One more thing: I would strongly urge to to abandon your incoherent notion of a “near-tautology.” I know you heard somewhere that tautologies are trivially true, and by merely asserting that my argument is a “near-tautology,” you think you have refuted or rebutted or criticized my argument. In fact, you have simply demonstrated that you don’t know what the words you use actually mean. As I said above, a tautology is an all or nothing proposition: tautologies are necessarily true (which means, it is impossible to conceive of it as false without collapsing into a contradiction; the truth is established by the words themselves and nothing else). Claims like “No bachelors are married” are tautologies, because it is impossible to deny the claim without contradiction (e.g., “Some bachelors are not married” doesn’t make any sense if you know what the words “bachelor” and “married” mean). Any “near tautology” is really an empirical or contingent claim, whose truth has to be determined by looking somewhere other than the claims. Tautologies may be trivially true, but not other claims (like your amusing “near tautology”).

                      Alas, it appears we have reached an impasse in our discussion, since you can’t convince me of your position and I can’t convince you of mine. Enjoy your ad hominems, even though they are not logically relevant to your argument.

                    • Craig

                      I guess we’ll need to restate the problem, in an attempt to make it even easier to grasp. Here is Scot’s argument:

                      Premise: Under one particular circumstance – where the only goal is to only evaluate the logical basis of an argument – calling someone an asshole is inappropriate.

                      Conclusion 1: Therefore, it is never, under any circumstance, appropriate to call someone an asshole.

                      Conclusion 2: Therefore, Craig is “entirely mistaken” when he claims that it is sometimes appropriate to call someone an asshole.

                      Scot cannot acknowledge that his conclusions do not follow from his premise. Strange.

                    • Craig, seriously, that’s not what Scot said. You have totally lost the thread here. He said that, unless the character of the person is what’s being debated, the character of the person has no place in the argument about the person’s position on a matter. Ad hominem attacks are attempts to sway the listener to one side of the argument — they often work, but they are not about the nature of the thing being debated.

                      In other words, you can call someone an asshole and win the audience to your side (see the comment section on my blog, for instance; or, better yet, SCCL), but that has nothing to do with the actual merits of the argument on one side or the other.

                    • Craig

                      Tony, here is precisely what Scot said. He first quotes me and then makes the claim that follows.

                      “Rather than attacking the content of a person’s argument, sometimes it’s appropriate to attack the tastefulness or tone of the argument, or to call into question the motives of the person making the argument, or to point out that a person lacks the “standing” to make a certain kind of claim (usually an indictment of hypocrisy, or a claim that the person lacks adequate background, perspective, or information to speak on the issue). Sometimes even straightforward name-calling is wonderfully appropriate, as when someone really is behaving like an asshole.”

                      This entire statement is mistaken. (Scot’s statement)

                      To simplify, we can shorten the long quotation to say, “Sometimes it is appropriate to call someone an asshole.” Scott must insist that the simple claim is entirely mistaken. All he has managed to argue, however, is for a trivial kind of claim that was never under dispute. Namely, a claim like this: When the point of discussion is to only evaluate the merits of an argument’s content, then calling someone an asshole is inappropriate. But, obviously, that’s a long way from showing that it is entirely mistaken to say that it is sometimes appropriate to call someone an asshole.

                      What’s strange is that Scot cannot concede the obvious point.

                    • Craig

                      Tony, I’m now wondering if you share Scot’s misconceptions about the ad hominem fallacy. Here is what Scot says he affirms without qualification:

                      It is never, under any circumstance, appropriate to do any of the following: (a) attack the tastefulness or tone of an argument; (b) call into question the motives of the person making the argument, or (c) to point out that a person lacks staking to make a certain kind of claim, (d) call someone an asshole.

                      Do you also share such a radical view? Or can you recognize that it is indeed a gross misapplication (an overgeneralization) of ad-hominem-fallacy attribution?

                    • Scot Miller

                      Craig, quit misrepresenting my argument. You are committing the “straw man” fallacy, since I did not affirm your statement “without qualification”, but offer extensive qualifications in the rest of my reply. I have consistently said (qualification:) that in evaluating an argument, these kinds of personal attacks are irrelevant, but they may be relevant if a person or her character is at issue. And I’ve said that such attacks may be psychologically persuasive, but they have no bearing on whether an argument is good or not. So ad hominems are appropriate for someone who doesn’t care about arguments but with winning a debate. (You do realize that other reasonable people can read our exchanges and see where each of us is mistaken, right?)

                      I am done. There’s no point in arguing with someone who can’t argue his point in good faith without willfully misrepresenting someone else’s position.

                    • Craig

                      Scot, the obvious problem with adding so much “extensive qualification” is that you’ve undermined all ability to substantiate your original criticism – that the quoted statement of mine is “entirely mistaken”!

                      So you found yourself between a rock and a hard place: you either affirm something radical and ludicrous, or surrender your criticism of my position. Now you’re refusing the former, but you’ve still not acknowledged that this means owning the latter–and with it the surrender of your entire case against my position. If that’s what you mean by “good faith,” I want no part of it.

                    • Craig

                      Scot, let me close by saying that I hope no hard feelings endure between us. I have none towards you. You gave me the advantage in adopting a untenable position, and I had no small pleasure in pressuring you to defend it. After your professorial and pedantic entrance, I stand guilty of exploiting your consequent inability to make concessions. None of this detracts from my respect for your training in philosophy, or for the comments you generally make–which are typically full of thought and insight.

                      But this is between you and me–as I doubt that anyone else has the interest or the patience to duly follow our thread.

                    • matybigfro

                      Craig somehow in this thread you managed to persuade me that not only is the content of your argument questionable but to my perception so is your tone, motivation and behvaiour.

                    • Craig

                      So you’ve encountered a paradox matybigfro. What to do?

                    • Lord. Since the entire argument, as I’ve seen it played out on this blog and elsewhere for days, is about how Christian (white) (straight) men are perceived when doing theology in a public setting, and how they can phrase arguments in a way that doesn’t render their arguments inapplicable but DOES cause one to question their motives and/or aspirations and/or status as allies and/or understanding of their own privilege, character matters quite a bit in the discussion and is a prevailing part of it. It is worth attending to and interrogating.

                      I have no time to read what has, since my initial request, become the “I-know-more-about-Euthyphro” party or whatever else this has degenerated into. The question that I’m interested in directly cuts to the question of character and fear and the feelings that people regularly have that white male Christian leadership doesn’t always get the point of view of the marginalized. That’s going to be a discussion that butts up to actual honest-to-God questions of individual character and how to make disadvantaged people feel safe within Christian forums on the internet.

                      I’m with Scot that attacking someone’s character or tone or timing as a way of distracting from the substance of the argument being made is inappropriate, but the argument that has developed recently is ABOUT appropriate tone and timing and diction and how that relates to who we are inside as subjects living in this world. Can we stop this pissing contest over who knows more about Greek rhetoric and remember that there are real people in these discussions who have been hurt recently — and that INCLUDES Tony as much as it includes his feminist and womanist critics?

      • Sorry. Laughing at irony. Brb.

        • Chris

          He’s not afraid of it Sarah, he just doesn’t handle it well.

  • Looking forward to this week on your blog.

  • Kimberly Roth

    Thank you. I look forward to seeing this series, which will hopefully expose some voices to a new audience. I appreciate & acknowledge this as a concrete response to requests to continue to create space and listen.

  • Holly Roach

    This is a lovely invitation. Kudos.

    • Rebekah


  • Marta L

    Tony, I’d like to participate myself. Can you give me an idea of when you’d like to receive the posts by?

    • By June 5, if possible. But I will accomodate as much as possible.

  • Are you exclusively seeking females for this? “Feminist” and “womanist” certainly aren’t categories exclusive to the female gender.

    • Michael Carl Budd

      Let’s submit and give it ago. It says Christian Feminists, nothing about gender or sex.

  • steve taylor

    the ad on the right hand side bar alongside this invitation to Christian feminists is an for barbie dolls. A fascinating moment of deconstruction,

  • carynriswold
    • Caryn, my invitation should in no way be seen as a way to keep people from reading your blog, and many others. I do, and they should, too. That’s why I linked to the Bonfire list in the post.

  • I am interested in participating.

  • marat88

    Good luck, folks.

    For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 2 Timothy 4:3 (NKJV) Read the whole chapter in context.

    Though I would advise you to repent and turn to the narrow way instead. I don’t condemn nor force you to do anything, but implore you to be wary of the path you choose.

    • Larry Barber

      The “narrow way”, of course, being your way. But if it’s so narrow, why are there so many people on it?

      And don’t you guys ever get tired of using that same ambiguous, self-serving proof text?

      • marat88

        Larry, I am sorry if that offended you, but I have a duty to exhort you with humility and without hypocrisy, because I would be guilty if I didn’t. Here’s another proof text:

        11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.
        14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God… 2 Corinthians 6 ESV

        • Larry Barber

          You hardly offended me. Amused would be closer to the truth. Why is it that those of a more traditional/conservative bent think trotting out old “itching ears” is some kind of argument? The only way it can be considered an argument at all is if you start with the assumption that your position is unassailably right. Which is hardly what I would call arguing from a position of humility. Tell me, why couldn’t I use that text against your position?

          Your Corinithian quoate is even worse, in it you seem to be assuming that feminist or womanist theologians aren’t even Christian! In fact you equate them with Belial! This also not a position of humulity. Tell me, have you ever read any feminist theologians?

          • marat88

            If they talk about “The Possibility of a Gender-Transcendent God: Taking Macmurray Forward” and talk about searching for Sophia then yes, I have.

            I remember reading this article also:

            In other words, in my view of Christianity and feminism do not mesh well, and even if they do, the end-product will be impure Christian doctrine more akin to the Christian socialism.

            • marat88

              I am sorry if my reasoning appeared hateful, but I have to stand what I believe is true. I will leave this discussion, knowing that reasoning about Christian faith is controversial and unfruitful if the Holy Spirit doesn’t convict one of his or her sin first. Take care.

  • Thursday1

    I personally don’t understand why Christians are jumping on a bandwagon (feminism) that seems totally unsustainable:

    (If any of this scares you, James Haynes (Jayman above), a self described ‘very liberal’ black man will lead you through it as gently as possible. Longman is a self described liberal too.)

  • this is a good start. i don’t know if christena cleveland identifies as a feminist or if she’d even be interested in posting here after your fightin’ words, but i admire her a great deal and would love to read her words in this space.

  • Tony, my only question is whether this is primarily a PR-driven invitation. Wouldn’t it be better to simply accept the concerns women have expressed, apologize sincerely (using your own words), and seek change where necessary?

    To be clear: it’s awesome that you want to host Christian feminists on the blog. But it’s not awesome if it’s to help your image and bypass relationally engaging them.

    • Zach, I wonder how I would appropriately respond to this “question.” If I say that it’s really about learning and not about PR, would you believe me? Based on our previous interactions, you seem dubious of everything I say. I might ask you, in return: Is yours an honest question, or a way to score PR points with people who don’t like me?

      In all honesty, I am offering this space with good intentions. People will make of it what they will.

      • I would believe it if it’s consistent with your overall engagement with them. I am friends with some of the folks in question (though I don’t think they provide me with any PR), but I have been a fan of your stuff (esp. Church is Flat and the atonement book) and want to continue to be. Heck, you’re on my blogroll! But I do want to urge you (FWIW) to be consistent in hearing and receiving disagreements, etc., and not just moving toward big statements of defense and dismissal or doing PR campaigns. That’s all.

        • Well, all I ask is that you take my invitation at face value and not attempt to undermine its sincerity with questions that aren’t really questions. If you think this is about PR for me, say so. But there’s no way for me to answer your question with any more sincerity than in the original post. Either I’m being sincere, or I’m not. You questioning my sincerity doesn’t really move us forward, does it?

  • Susan Phillips

    This essay comes from a stand up comic rather than a theologian, but he has learned a few things that might be useful in this conversation. They essay is long. Stay with it. Where he ends up was helpful.