8 of 15 people found the following review helpful
disappointing; cop out; a fudge
, 15 Mar. 2014
This review is from: How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals (Paperback)
This was bought by me partly in a forlorn hope that someone would nail a conclusive argument so I could accept it happily, but otherwise so I could see how people in favour of this were thinking and talking. I wanted to know so that when discussing this rationally (which is very rare indeed) I could do so in an informed and responsive manner, and not at crossed purposes (which I have noticed is also common) with whosoever wanted to do so.
Leadership is a broad term, and nowhere does this book attempt to describe it. Appointment of church leaders was not in Scripture based upon spiritual gifts in the same a way as prophets and apostles, but the requirements stated in the epistles are those of character and maturity. The Amazon book description which bases its premise on gifts is indicative of the experiential theology which follows in the book. This is a book about feelings, which are irrefutable in that one cannot prove the inner feelings of anyone about anything, and suits our current post-modern, relativist, subjectivist zeitgeist. Of course, relativism and subjectivism are by their nature transient and mutable, so one might reasonably expect conclusions drawn so to also be transient and mutable; it would posit transience and mutability as somehow inevitable, and possibly indicative of truth, perhaps under the guise of authenticity. It is a book about a theology of experience, or as Barth might prefer, an anthropology of experience.
Experiential theology is of course nothing new; in the past mystics of varying shades (from Julian of Norwich to Milton to Emanuel Swedenborg to William Blake to Evelyn Underhill to Bahá'u'lláh to Khalil Gibran) and liberal theologians (Schleiermacher, von Harnack et al) have espoused experiential method but a quick survey of these names will reveal the dubious nature of much of their revelation. Julian of Norwich would be mortified to know how misused her Revelations of Divine Love have been; she was an orthodox Catholic solitary, and would be horrified to be considered anything else, yet the most fantastical ideas are attributed to her, partly on account of her style of writing. Yet she submitted humbly to the Church of the day, and to its teaching, and to the Scriptures, which many of these mystics did not do; this would have kept her in the straight and narrow of truth. The others felt free to cast off as they saw fit, hence Milton's wonderful poetry but dubious theology (the poetic madness there did not lead to divine illumination!), and thence to the almost occult leanings of Blake and Swedenborg. Our guard against all this error is Scripture, which is why Karl Barth returned so passionately and vehemently to Scripture in confronting firstly his own helplessness in dealing with the spiritual issues of real life, and then also the errors of the Lutheran church's agreement with first the Kaiser (von Harnack, Schleiermacher) and then the Nazis; and that is what is missing from this volume.
There is no cogent Scriptural argument to overturn our apparently grotesque misunderstandings of the past. Astonishingly, one the last entries in the book is by the Anglican bishop John Bernard Taylor who as a Cambridge graduate with a double first in classics and theology, as a professional churchman and thus theologian, as one describing himself as evangelical, after a life time of work and ministry and discipleship, confesses that he is unable to articulate a coherent argument for the righteousness in overturning and dismissing this witness of Scripture, and passes over to R T France, who in reality is equally unable so to do. If this was some abstruse technical discussion about the philosophy of time in Church Dogmatics, it would be pardonable; but it is not. It is an issue clearly spelt out in Scripture for all to see and know in order that the church should govern its affairs uprightly within the witness of Scripture. There is meaning to these texts which none of these exegetes can explain if they dismiss its obviousities. Which is why it all falls back to feelings, and then the more or less urgent need to bring Scripture into line with those feelings; obviously for some that need is more urgent than for others. Jesus did things the other way about; he returned the experience and ideas of those he was with back to Scripture.
The other somewhat diffident or critical reviews also reflect my reception of this book, and also allude to the real issues; the driving force behind all this is our cultural liberationism, and the common misconception of liberationism as equivalent with righteousness. Within the secular civil rights movement, that of course is quite acceptable and consistent, but it is not the same for the people of God. God is not answerable to the civil rights movement, or to liberationist agendas, and nor are we. He has spelled out truth and righteousness for us to receive on His terms.
The references to patriarchy in the book betray this undercurrent, never explicitly owned to. The whole concept of patriarchy is a pejorative term for a feminist construct; to polemicise and attack traditional forms which are not in agreement with a feminist agenda. It is sexist in itself in that it is defined by male and female, and vilifies the masculine, so in this aspect it is no answer to sexism; it is simply sexism by a different name and form.
I will not buy into a hermeneutic which dismisses Scripture, and is governed by a Godless agenda, negating the beauty and goodness of male and female, and God's Revelation of Himself in all these things.
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