Link here to a My Response to the Affirmations.
I also draw from Dr. Robert K McGreggor Wright’s response as noted in the Journal of Biblical Equality.
Responding to CBMW’s Danvers Statement Rationales:
- CBMW’s statements are noted in DARK BLUE.
- Dr. Wright’s commentary or references to his work are noted in PURPLE.
Preceding the Affirmations in the Danvers Statement, those who drafted it first established “Rationales.” They note in the short preamble: “Prior to the listing of the actual affirmations that comprise the Danvers Statement, we have included a section detailing contemporary developments that serve as the rationale for these affirmations.” As I was unsure that I would be able to make it through very much of this document, I addressed the “Affirmations” first. I find that there are a few things that do need to be clarified.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve read somewhere elsewhere that people are questioning why anyone would respond to a document that is so dated. The Danvers Statement was written in December of 1987 and subsequently published in 1988, and it serves as the foundational document of the Council on Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). As stated previously on this blog, I’d never heard any reference to this document and didn’t know that it existed until June of 2007 when I began working on research for the 2008 apologetics workshop that ENMR asked me to present on the patriarchy movement.
Secondly, Wayne Grudem published his Systematic Theology in 1995 and popularized many of these teachings. Kevin Giles reports in Jesus and the Father: Modern Evangelicals Reinvent the Doctrine of the Trinity that, at the time of the writing of his book, Grudem’s Systematic Theology (ST) text was the most commonly used ST in English-speaking Seminaries and Bible Colleges. Grudem’s presentation of the Eternal Subordination of the Son Doctrine in his ST has been taught in many seminaries without challenge, so that at this current time, many parishioners have been taught falsely by their authorities that this doctrine is legitimate and above reproach.
In 2000, the language pertaining to the “priesthood of all believers” was changed in the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) statement, the foundational document of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Subsequently, the Danvers Statement gained even more traction, deepening the Roman Catholic Theology related trends in the Baptist Church, as the major push for these trends has come from those also affiliated with CBMW. As I understand matters, the SBC is a loosely affiliated group of churches who joined together to raise more financial support for seminaries and missions, but the 2000 BF&M and the influence behind it sought to consolidate power in order to make the SBC more authoritarian, being ruled by a group of leaders at the top as opposed to a congregational government with their previously loose affiliation for the purpose of raising funds only.
[To the Catholic friends of this blog, please understand that this discussion concerns Protestant ideas that govern the Protestant Church, a group that is so defined because of their dissent from fundamental concepts of Roman Catholic Theology. Protestants and Catholics share essentials of the faith but differ in “saving” and “non-essential” doctrine. Protestants should be very much unlike the Catholic Church in these respect to the denial of a formal priesthood in support of “the priesthood of all believers,” that which defines them as Protestant. In the current era of the Church, I think Roman Catholic tradition, Vatican II in particular, is actually much more gracious to women and does a much better job of honoring Biblical principles concerning gender. Protestant complementarianism is far more damaging to women than the Roman Catholic Church has been in my own lifetime, empowering women to serve God through various sorts of ministry by comparison.]
For these reasons, the document deserves to be re-addressed and openly challenged. Based on my personal experience in the cultic Shepherding Discipleship Movement and in my efforts to combat the effects of thought reform in Evangelical churches, the Danvers Statement and its principles have been used to justify the growing incidence of the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuse of women. The CBMW continues to ignorantly and staunchly deny that their teachings have had any impact on such abuse, and the group maintains that their ideology is in no way culpable for fostering any abuse. Based on my personal experiences and the reports of others over the course of my work, I wholeheartedly disagree with CBMW’s claims.
The Danvers Statement Rationales 1- 3We have been moved in our purpose by the following contemporary developments which we observe with deep concern:
- The widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity;
- the tragic effects of this confusion in unraveling the fabric of marriage woven by God out of the beautiful and diverse strands of manhood and womanhood;
- the increasing promotion given to feminist egalitarianism with accompanying distortions or neglect of the glad harmony portrayed in Scripture between the loving, humble leadership of redeemed husbands and the intelligent, willing support of that leadership by redeemed wives;
I’ve read more reports on the degree of “Biblical illiteracy” in recent years than I can recall. In surveys, most Christians do not reflect beliefs that support the clear elements of essential Bible doctrine. Increasingly larger numbers of Christians cannot articulate anything of Bible doctrine or principles. Could we not say then that the primary problem in the Church concerns this issue of our day? Well, CBMW to the rescue to tell the poor masses what the Bible really says about it’s contrived concepts of “masculinity” and “femininity.” The “widespread confusion” in the culture has always been there, but if there is widespread confusion in the church, what is the source of this confusion? Does Biblical illiteracy not account for the deficit? How does a Christian deal with “uncertainty” and “confusion”? Does that Christian not go to the Word itself to seek out the answers?
I have no problems with the concept of the male and female genders complementing one another. The problem arises when one tries to assert that this complementary nature of gender must also encompass and incorporate the standards established by CBMW in their volumes of writing to articulate what should be clear truths (as they assert). One doesn’t need a tome to articulate the simple meanings. One does need a tome to justify a created concept. Complementarianism as a term hides the dark underbelly of blame and scapegoating of women in order to elevate men to a type of human deity through contrived hierarchy that is also not found clearly and plainly in Scripture. There is no complementarianism apart from hierarchy, and to support it, the pleasant-sounding facade hides the fact that to accomplish its hierarchical ends, it has compromised and rewritten the Doctrine of the Trinity by ascribing to Semi-Arianism.
Rationale 2 states that the “unraveling of the fabric of marriage” has occurred because of the effects of “confusion and uncertainty” in our culture, presumably culture outside of the Church. This statement makes numerous logical leaps that are not even made remotely apparent, and to truly agree with these dubious statements, one must agree to the presuppositions of CBMW about the nature of the Trinity and the ontological subordination that supports hierarchy. They don’t tell you enough about these “strands” which they call “beautiful” and I call strictly cultural, bordering on heresy, and what others call semi-Arian. Cults do the very same thing by failing to tell the unpleasant truths about their doctrine, only revealing the plain truths clearly until well after the individual has strongly identified with the group through commitment, a powerful appeal to the human trait of consistency. Jeff VanVonderan called this power of identification and commitment “sweat equity” in his book, “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.” If the Danvers Statement rightly came right out and clearly stated the actual presuppositions instead of burying them in volumes of writing, communicating them through the use of the tricks of rhetoric, informal logical fallacy, and propaganda, most literate Christians would have rejected the Danvers Statement outright.
A few years ago, Russell Moore stated in a 9 Marks round table interview that he prefers the term “patriarchy” over “complementarianism.” But CBMW and those who contrived the Danvers Statement could not have used the term “patriarchy” because of the negative connotation. They sought to hide the ugly underbelly. In the same manner, CBMW hides the doctrinal presuppositions that actually support the rationales of the Danvers Statement in order to circumvent and bypass criticism. It is fine deception and craft.
The flowery and poetic imagery of “fabric” and “strands” presents a Red Herring that uses an emotional appeal to divert the reader away from questioning these presuppositions. What is the real matter of concern and what constitutes the source of the problem? They are saying that the Church has capitulated to the culture, and it has allowed the secular culture to permeate the Church with confusion and uncertainty. Why have they not directly stated this? They don’t want anyone thinking about Biblical illiteracy but about their ready-made solution to the problem which they have ill-defined. If the Church has capitulated to the culture, the answer is to teach the Bible. But CBMW does not want that, otherwise, people will challenge their doctrine based on their knowledge of what the Bible actually says. They want to provide people with their ready-made solutions that they’ve contrived to combat their ill-defined problem. We need the new high priests of patriarchy to tell the poor masses what the Bible says, the time-honored tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. (Please recall disclaimer in the fourth paragraph above, introducing the discussion of the Rationales concerning Roman Catholic Theology versus guiding principles that are appropriate for Protestants.)
Among the many undefined presuppositions that CBMW hides in its many writings or communicates via propaganda techniques of fuzzy logic and unstated assumption which the reader is expected to assume, the term “Biblical Egalitarian” becomes a pejorative with a very negative connotation that intensifies the first two rationales. Note that the term is undefined by the Danvers Statement, something that the Statement presumes to be sinful. Without statements establishing justification for the claim, Egalitarianism is blamed for the “confusion and uncertainty” asserted in the previous Rationales, the presumed true source of the problems in the larger secular culture, and by extension, the destruction of marriage. Yet this is not directly stated in the beginning, because the point needed to be softened in order to be accepted. It is sin in the culture which rejects God that causes confusion and lack of order, not egalitarianism. In fact, CBMW wants Christians to remain ignorant of the rich history of egalitarianism in the Church and that the Bible has presented great support to the cause of freedom of all individuals in society as an outward manifestation of the effect of Biblical Principles on the secular culture.
I addressed the remainder of this rhetoric under my response to Affirmation Four. (Note that they also evade their theology about how women are really responsible for sin entering the world, that they do not have responsibility under their teaching of primogeniture to bear responsibility, so Paul blames Adam in the New Testament, and that all women are deceived and have greater capacity for sin than men. They do not clearly state this, but this is the foundation upon which the Danvers Statement rests.)
The Danvers Statement Rationales 4 - 6
We have been moved in our purpose by the following contemporary developments which we observe with deep concern:
- the widespread ambivalence regarding the values of motherhood, vocational homemaking, and the many ministries historically performed by women;
- the growing claims of legitimacy for sexual relationships which have Biblically and historically been considered illicit or perverse, and the increase in pornographic portrayal of human sexuality;
- the upsurge of physical and emotional abuse in the family;
I would agree that neglect of the home and duty to the home has contributed to the decay of our culture, but can that be traced back to Christians who are living rightfully according to the Bible and to all those who reject gender hierarchy / ontological equality of women? Jocelyn Andersen calls this the “evil woman mantra,” in her book "Woman this is War," an a priori assumption upon which most of CBMW’s presuppositions rest. Those who are committed to living according to the Word of God and do so are not ambivalent about family and responsibility. Again, if the issue is lack of concern for the Bible, that should be stated. The Danvers Statement makes many leaps in connection without justifying them and the presuppositions required to arrive at the conclusion. Abandoning responsibility to care for family is a separate issue from the ideas about gender hierarchy, yet egalitarianism is blamed again, the scapegoat for all of the fault in the world, just like Adam’s response to God in Eden. [“It’s the woman’s fault, and it’s Your fault for giving this woman to me” (Gen. 3:12).] The term “historically” would be more honestly stated as “traditionally,” as not all history confirms their claims, though certain traditions of bias do.
Can homosexuality truly be blamed on women as Rationale 5 supports? I believe this represents a Slippery Slope Logical Fallacy. Because there is so little written establishing the details in support of the causal relationship between a non-hierarchical view of the nature of women and homosexuality, the argument is fallacious. First, it presumes that a non-hierarchical view of women and an equal ontology is sinful and is clearly sinful in the Bible in the same manner that the Bible so clearly addresses the sin of homosexuality. This is a presupposition that is not clear in Scripture but is one made and forced by CBMW, as if egalitarian behavior and homosexuality are varied degrees on a continuum describing sexual sin.
The strength of the argument derives from the connections between the presumption of causal relationship between an egalitarian view of women and homosexuality. From my readings, CBMW ignores all references to Church history and looks only at the secular feminist movement to support this claim of causality. The history of women teaching and preaching throughout the history of the Church weakens their claim, so it is excluded from the discussion. This point is not presented at all in the Danvers Statement, and one must read through volumes of information to find support for the assertions made.
Women and their failure to submit and obey the principles established by CBMW account for the rise in incidence of abuse in the home, according to the Danvers Statement, though the specifics about the principles must be studied and researched in order to discern what is truly meant by this statement. Women are the obligate cause of all problems in the family, and churches who follow the ideology of CBMW focus on women’s behavior as the root cause. If a husband starts looking at pornography, very little is said to men about this overt sin, but women are blamed for being inaccessible to their mates. Women then pay the wages for their husband’s sin, and the husband is justified. Whether this was intended by CBMW in the beginning, I do not know, but this is certainly what results. If there is any issue in the family regarding abuse or otherwise, the woman is always to blame.
The problem here comes from CBMW’s squeezing in of culture in place of the Bible, and the cultural ramifications come through brilliantly in CBMW’s true colors. Abuse of women is supported by heathen culture, and it is the presumption of the Baal marriage over a Biblical model that predisposes CBMW’s paradigm (complete with cultural pagan ideas) to the abuse tendency. The New Testament establishes a separate ideal for marriage that CBMW tries to dilute with pagan cultural principles of the Baal marriage concept.
From the Encyclopedia of Religion:
In marriages under the system of male kinship in Arabia, the wife—whether obtained by capture or by contract—" who follows her husband and bears children who are of his blood has lost the right freely to dispose of her person ; her husband has authority over her and he alone has the right of divorce." Among the Arabians, Hebrews, and Aramaeans the husband in this kind of marriage was called ba‘al, " lord " or " owner." Robertson Smith therefore describes it as Baal-marriage (p. the term be`ulah of a subject wife, Isaiah lxii. 4). In this way such a marriage is distinguished from a Beena-marriage (q.v.). Robertson Smith contends that before the separation of the tribes Beenamarriage or matriarchy was the universal practice among the Semites. But Prof. Wellhausen has proved that Baal-marriage or patriarchy can be traced back to primitive Semitic times.
The Danvers Statement Rationales 7 - 10
We have been moved in our purpose by the following contemporary developments which we observe with deep concern:
- the emergence of roles for men and women in church leadership that do not conform to Biblical teaching but backfire in the crippling of Biblically faithful witness;
- the increasing prevalence and acceptance of hermeneutical oddities devised to reinterpret apparently plain meanings of Biblical texts;
- the consequent threat to Biblical authority as the clarity of Scripture is jeopardized and the accessibility of its meaning to ordinary people is withdrawn into the restricted realm of technical ingenuity;
- and behind all this the apparent accommodation of some within the church to the spirit of the age at the expense of winsome, radical Biblical authenticity which in the power of the Holy Spirit may reform rather than reflect our ailing culture.
As in previous posts, these assumptions beg the question and rely upon circular reasoning. One must accept a their complementary canon in order to rightfully and truly embrace their rationales, but they do not make the more disturbing points of their canon readily known or clear to the reader of the Danvers Statement alone.
One must presume that “roles” are appropriate in the church as opposed to “function” or “operation”, a drift in language that author Kevin Giles traces in his book, “Jesus and the Father.” As previously established, the word and concept of “role” is actually consistent with how the word “hypocrite” is used in the New Testament. The statement also makes vague references to hierarchy, as it is assumed that all proper function and operation of men and women in the church are rightfully encompassed and attributed by CBMW, and that CBMW represents the pure, plain and clear teachings of the Bible. Plenty of devoted and honorable Christians reject these concepts and live out Biblically faithful witnesses. This Rationale subtly masks the elitist and very cultic nature of the divisiveness of complementarianism. If you do not agree with their concepts, you cannot live a faithful life as depicted and defined in the Gospel, an erroneous concept. If you do not agree with them, you are not really Christian.
Russell Moore has stated many times in several venues that if one rejects complementarianism, by default, that person rejects God’s Lordship over all creation. To believe and practice anything other than the paradigm that CBMW defines equates to fundamental rebellion against God because CBMW presumes that Jesus is subordinate in authority to the Father, though they deny the statement. Bruce Ware maintains that Jesus does not have the authority to hear and answer prayer, only to carry prayer to the Father. Though he maintains that God the Father gets the “ultimate” and “supreme” worship and authority within the Trinity, Ware also simultaneously denies that this means that the Father possesses more of the praises and authority than does Jesus (verifed via private communications). Denny Burke says that Jesus had to choose between equality with the Father and incarnation, and Jesus chose incarnation instead. Doug Phillips has said at homeschooling conventions in the late ‘90s that “the Father homeschooled Jesus” before the earth was created. Denial of any of these principles and living accordingly constitutes denial of God’s Lordship and amounts to open theism. This is spiritual abuse, folks. This is the Dispensing of Existence, a technique used by cults to bully followers into accepting their doctrine.
On this point concerning the pejorative of term of “hermeneutical oddities,” I will defer to Dr. RK Wright’s Response to the Danvers Statement:
People threatened by newness often appeal to what to them seems to be "obvious" as the correct meaning of the Bible. Hence it was once "obvious" that the Bible legitimized slavery, and even that it taught that the world was flat and geo-centric. Advancing scholarship inevitably means that "apparently plain" verses will turn out to mean something else entirely, but this only shows that a fully Biblical conservatism will continually ask itself whether it is conserving the right things or merely falling back into a reactionary traditionalism. The claim that Romans 16:1 teaches that the NT churches normally had female deacons is hardly a "hermeneutical oddity." The KJV rendering of diakonos in Romans 16:1-2 by "servant" is very definitely a hermeneutical oddity, and reflects clearly the prejudice of 16th Century Anglicanism against women in ministry. Why should E. M. W. Tillyard's Elizabethan World Picture define the world view which should be the standard for the twentieth Century translator?
This is hysterical to me and psychological projection at it’s finest, accusing others of what the person who makes the accusation does themselves! CBMW does exactly what Rationale Nine points out as one of their concerns. Why do they so heartily contribute to this problem if its occurrence is a matter of their concern? It is CBMW who has established a group of their own demi-gods and system of popery to discern the Word for Believers and then declare that their critics aren’t legitimate, orthodox Christians.
I can’t do the topic the justice that Dr. Wright does in his response (emphasis mine):
This is an implausible Article. Would its author like to forbid teaching on Eschatology simply because the subject matter (involving, for example, how to unravel the Book of Revelation) is difficult and lacks "accessibility to ordinary people"? Biblical Egalitarians should be reminded that they need not feel at a disadvantage merely because so many of the expounders of Scripture which they grew up with have stood still in their fields while other areas of scholarship have advanced. Trying to relegate legitimate issues, which involve questioning earlier-held traditionalist assumptions about certain texts to the "realm of technical ingenuity," is an illegitimate discouragement to legitimate enquiry. The often-expressed notion that the Bible's incidental mention that Phillip had four daughters that prophesied (Acts 21:9) is "the exception that proves the rule" is as clear a case of "technical ingenuity" as I can think of. The reference is really the exception that proves the rule never existed! I am reminded of a friend who once commented that the Bible has always made more sense than its interpreters.
The real problem is that the traditionalists have finally woken up to the fact that "prophesying" in the New Testament (as well as in the Old) normally involves preaching and teaching and counseling, along with the general application of the Word of God to the life and culture of God's people, and that if this is allowed, the traditionalist case against women preachers is seriously weakened. In this instance therefore, "hermeneutical ingenuity" must be employed to prove that "prophesying" is always distinct from "preaching." In fact one of the originators of the Council which produced the Danvers Statement (Wayne Grudem) having located himself in a highly charismatic church of a type which has traditionally given great freedom of leadership and preaching to women, has seen the problem clearly, and has recently published a book trying to prove that prophesying never included teaching or preaching! [Blog host note to the reader: Please note that this paper was originally authored/presented in the late eighties and was revised in the early nineties.] It might be worth remembering in this connection, that during the 1500-1600s, when male supremacy was virtually unquestioned, the Puritans held preacher-training sessions called "prophesyings" and wrote books promoting preaching with titles like The Liberty Of Prophesying. As long as male supremacy was unquestioned, it never occurred to the Puritans that prophecy was anything but mostly just preaching, although it might have been on occasion modified in an extraordinary way by the Holy Spirit's acting sovereignly as he willed at any moment, as was the case with the inscripturizing of the Canonical books. Grudem's tour de force is an attempt to block a hole in the traditionalist fence, which women preachers have always managed to get through!
I understand this as the principle that should have been stated and addressed at the outset: claims that, in terms of gender and how it is understood, the Church has capitulated to the culture. This assertion is saved until the end after the reader has hopefully accepted the other assertions because they have been so vaguely defined. It remains so vaguely defined, most people gloss over this point and find it too vague to discern. But it sounds intellectual...
This is a subtle declaration of their radical gender war. It is wrong to be kind to the sinner, or worse yet, to those Christians who do not agree with you on all points of doctrine because “winsome” Christians have capitulated to the culture and have thus been overtaken by it. I think that those who crafted the Danvers Statement are reading the Bible through a grid of what Chip Berlet calls “Right Wing Populism.”
If the Church has actually capitulated to the culture so significantly in terms of gender, what then stops this movement for rallying to reverse Women’s Suffrage and freedom for slaves. During the “War of Northern Aggression,” arguments were made that slavery was a legitimate means of dealing with poverty and debt. Doug Phillips does not openly promote his idea that slavery of some type should be reintroduced in this country, but he has taught this to his congregation and to people who’ve attended his “Faith and Freedom” Tours. How extensive does CBMW think that the distortion of the rights of women extend? Does it extend as far back as the arguments to free slaves that were deemed slaves based upon race? Where does the regress stop? It stops when CBMW says it stops, based upon whatever it’s whims of preference determine. It depends on how far their concerns of conspiracy and fear of women, inspired by their Right Wing Populist pessimism and paranoia extend.
Again, I will defer to Dr. RK Wright:
Historical study is increasingly demonstrating that there have always been at least some Evangelicals at the vanguard of movements for the emancipation of women from the arbitrary restrictions of a male-dominated traditionalism. Janette Hassey's No Time For Silence is a good example (1986). To paraphrase a famous Puritan pastor as he sent some of his flock off to the New World, "The Lord hath yet more light to break forth from the history of women's ministry!" And much of this history does not particularly flatter our male traditionalism. Have we forgotten how bitterly the reactionary conservative clergy inveighed against even so elementary a development as allowing female citizens the right to vote? Would a modern signatory to the Danvers Statement like to argue that the women's vote is the cause of today's social corruption? Since the "spirit of the age" is still male-supremacist, and the suppression of women (in cheerful fulfillment of the prediction in Gen. 3:16) is the natural stance of all heathen cultures, I fail entirely to see how our practicing the implications of Galatians 3:28 could be rationally thought of as conformity to the spirit of the age . . . .
I encourage the interested reader to also review the writings of Kevin Giles, principally both Jesus and the Father: Modern Evangelicals Reinvent the Doctrine of the Trinity and The Trinity and Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate.
Robert K. McGregor Wright, "A Response to the Danvers Statement: Part I". The Journal of Biblical Equality, July 1992; (copyrighted revision, Aquila and Priscilla House Study Center, Johnson City, TN, 1995):3.
ALSO OF INTEREST: Shirley Taylor's Response to the Danvers Statement.