Suppose someone were to tell you that the idea that men ought to love their wives is archaic, out-of-date, and offensive and that moreover it was invented by women in a bygone age in order to make their men into slaves and that it needs to be done away with in our more highly enlightened era. Would you not think this person to be stark, raving, mad and furthermore be justified in so thinking?
Let us suppose that the person making this novel argument against the uxorial right to husbandly affection professes to be a Christian. You make the observation that “husbands, love your wives” is backed by divine authority, being an injunction written to the church of Ephesus by the Apostle Paul in inspired writ. Would you consider his exegesis to be sound if he replied that this verse was the product of the selfsame gynocratic culture that he has been decrying and that it is in no way binding on Christians today?
You, dear reader, knowing the Scriptures would undoubtedly raise in objection to this singular interpretation the fact that the Apostolic injunction is grounded in a metaphorical application of the relationship between a husband and wife to that of Christ and His church and therefore cannot be simply dismissed by an appeal to the so-called cultural argument. The New Testament commandment to husbands together with accompanying reasoned explanation reads in whole as follows:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; (Eph. 5:25-33a)
The chances are, of course, quite slim, that you will ever find yourself in discussion with anyone who maintains that the Apostle’s commandment to husbands to love their wives is cultural and non-binding. I suspect, however, that you have probably encountered more than one person who insists that the parallel instructions to wives from the same passage be interpreted this way. The final verse of the passage quoted above, concludes with “and the wife see that she reverence her husband” and immediately prior to that passage we find the following addressed to wives:
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. (Eph. 5:22-24)
As you can see, the Apostle grounds his instructions to wives in the same metaphorical likening of the relationship between a husband and wife to that between Christ and his church that his commandment to husbands is based upon. There is no honest, consistent, and logical way to say that the one commandment (to husbands) is an enduring and binding edict that stands for all time whereas the other (to wives) is a product of first century culture that can be set aside for our own day. Yet this is precisely what many do with these texts.
The reason for this is because the instructions to wives contain an element that clashes with an idea that is considered very important in the culture of the present day. It declares the role of husband to be an office of authority and the relationship of marriage to be a hierarchical relationship. The culture of the Western world in the present day has been permeated by the modern ideology of liberalism to the point that its ideals are widely regarded as so self-evidently true as to be beyond reasonable question. One such ideal is that of the equality of the sexes. This is an ideal that does not harmonize well with Ephesians 5:22-24 or, for that matter, the similar instructions given in Col. 3:18 and 1 Peter 3:1-7 or the instructions to Timothy, Titus, and the Corinthian church that restrict women from certain authoritative teaching offices.
The question, therefore, for those of us who claim Christianity as our faith and therefore profess to regard the Holy Scriptures as authoritative sacred writ, inspired by God Himself, is do we subject the ideals of the present day to the judgement of the Scriptures or do we do it the other way around.
One person who has chosen the latter path is James Earl Carter Jr., who served as 39th President of the United States of America from 1977 to 1981, and who was amusingly described by a member of an angry mob in an episode of the Simpsons as “history’s greatest monster”. Seventeen years ago, Carter decided to secede from the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination in which he had been raised, in which he had served as a Sunday School teacher, and which had provided him with the “born again Christian” credentials he used to his advantage in his gubernatorial and presidential election campaigns. He objected to the SBC’s decision to take a step away from sliding into the abyss of the unbelief of liberalism by affirming a conservative view of Scriptural authority. He especially objected to their affirmation of the abiding authority of the above discussed verses. Nine years later he wrote an article explaining his decision, entitled “Losing My Religion for Equality” that was published in the Australian newspaper The Age in July of 2009 but which has recently resurfaced from the obscurity it deserves to once again poison the minds of gullible people.
The article is neither inspired nor insightful, consisting mostly of a psittacine recital of tired out liberal and feminist talking points, each of which has been soundly rebutted a thousand times over. Even the title is, except for the last two words, second-hand, having been borrowed from that of the song that had become R.E.M.’s biggest hit – eighteen years previously. Carter writes:
During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn't until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.
This view of church history sounds like it was lifted from the rants of a Dan Brown villain – presumably from Sir Ian McKellen’s portrayal of such in the film version of The Da Vinci Code that was released three years prior to the article as it is highly dubious that Carter possesses the literacy necessary to have made it through the novel. At any rate it is pure nonsense. The fourth is the century in which Emperor Constantine, inspired by a dream, won the Battle of the Milvian Bridge under a standard bearing the symbol ☧ (Chi Rho – the first two letters of Christ’s name in Greek), converted to Christianity, legalized the faith, and called the patriarchs and other bishops of the church to the first post-New Testament general council (the First Council of Nicaea of 325 AD). Towards the end of the century the Emperor Theodosius I made Christianity the official religion of Rome. This century has long been pointed to by those who wish to resurrect the heresies that plagued the church in the early centuries as the point when the church abandoned a supposedly pristine and pure primitive Christianity for an adulterated pagan version. It is particularly reviled by those who reject the Trinity and the hypostatic union of perfect deity and perfect humanity in the Person of Jesus Christ. It is only by pointing to the Gnostics and other heretical sects who denied these doctrines, the rebuttal of whose false teachings occupies much of the writings of the second and third century Fathers, and who were formally condemned by the church in the Nicene and subsequent councils, and by regarding these rather than the orthodox as the “real Christians” that this myth of an early church full of female priests and bishops can be maintained. To hold to this perspective consistently, one also has to reject the authority of the Apostolic writings traditionally considered to be Holy Scripture by orthodox Christianity, i.e., the New Testament, for it is the earliest manifestation of these heresies combatted by the early church fathers and condemned in the early church councils that was the doctrine held by those that St. John called “antichrists” in his epistles.
Such a rejection of the authority of the New Testament can, in fact, be found in Jimmy Carter’s screed. He makes it absolutely clear that when Scriptural authority and truth come into conflict with the liberal spirit of the age, he sides with the latter over the former.
Carter says, for example:
The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truths.
By saying that these verses – rather than an interpretation of them with which he disagrees – are the product of the time and place in which they were written and that they are an expression of the selfish wish of male leaders to “hold on to their influence” rather than eternal truth – he is denying their divine inspiration. He thus testifies to his holding to the view that the Scriptures contain the Word of God – or that they “become” the Word of God when we experience God through them – but that they are not themselves the Word of God. This is called the “neo-orthodox” view of the Scriptures, but the term is a misnomer for this is not a form of orthodoxy. The orthodox doctrine of Christianity is that the Holy Scriptures are the written Word of God which bears authoritative witness to the living Word of God, Jesus Christ.
Carter rejects the orthodox view of the Scriptures because he has weighed them in the balance of the modern liberal idea of the equality of the sexes found them to be wanting. By doing so, however, he has been applying an unjust measure.
Equality means sameness. It is used in political philosophy to refer to the idea that people are all basically the same and that they ought to be the same in terms of status, power, and wealth. Egalitarianism is immature to the point of being infantile – an unworthy elevation of the toddler’s cry “Johnny’s piece of pie is bigger than mine!” into something that passes for an intellectually respectable political position. Its appeal is to human vice – specifically to the vice of envy, of looking to others and hating them for what they have that one does not have oneself. It is the wellspring of the evil of violent revolution.
The egalitarianism of our age is a form of idolatry – not in the literal sense, of awarding a wood or stone representation of a pagan deity the honour and worship due to the true and living God but in the extended, philosophical sense of the substitution of a counterfeit or lesser good for a true or higher good. In this case equality has been swapped for the good that has been recognized since ancient times under the name justice. Justice is the state of being and acting rightly in accordance with divine, natural, and civil law. Unlike equality, justice recognizes the legitimacy of hierarchy, of differences between people, and of differences both in degree and kind between our relationships with other people, and the obligations it places upon us differ accordingly. Justice is a far more difficult and exacting standard than equality, which is perhaps why our lazy and decadent age, has turned to the latter.
Men and women, as everyone who is not a total moron knows, are not the same. They both belong to the species Homo sapiens to be sure, and there are many ways of the ten fingers, ten toes, two eyes, one nose variety, in which they are alike. Traditionally, orthodox Christianity has acknowledged other, less trivial, ways in which they are the same. Men and women are alike created in the image of God, alike fallen into sin and exiled from Paradise, alike loved by God and through faith share alike in the redemption provided by God through Jesus Christ. In these senses men and women could be said to be equal and it is in the last mentioned of these senses that Galatians 3:28 – written by the same man who wrote most of the verses that Jimmy Carter objects to - declares there to be “neither male nor female” in Christ. In other ways, men and women are very different, and until very recently, our societies and traditional religions, took those differences into consideration in the roles assigned to the two sexes. We never came close to achieving actual justice, of course, but the rise of sexual egalitarianism was not a step towards this ideal but rather away from it.
One of the biggest differences between the sexes is natural and biological – women conceive, carry developing foeti in their wombs for nine months, give birth, and then nourish young infants with their milk. Nature has placed no similar burden upon men. The traditional way in which human societies dealt with this was to acknowledge the difference and to compel men to protect and provide for the women they impregnate and the children they sire. Indeed, human societies traditionally inspired men to do all sorts of unpleasant things, from working at backbreaking labour from sunup to sundown to going into battle to fight and die, with the motivation that they were doing all this as a duty owed to their wives and children. Need we look further for evidence of the insanity of liberal egalitarianism than to the fact that it seriously maintains that such societies were organized for the oppression of women and preservation of a male monopoly on power? Those who make the equality of the sexes their goal, have a very different approach to this natural difference between men and women. It is to assert the right of women to terminate their pregnancies.
This is a matter on which Jimmy Carter has long sat on the fence. Having courted the evangelical vote throughout his political career, he never endorsed the “abortion on demand” pro-choice position of the typical liberal Democrat and has at times criticized his own party for its position, seemingly trying to move it closer towards the pro-life position. In the article we are discussing, however, he used language that sounds very much like that of the pro-choice movement. More recently he told the Huffington Post that Jesus would approve of abortion in cases of rape or incest. It was inevitable that someone who has worshipped at the shrine of the equality of the sexes would eventually come around to endorsing abortion to some degree for that idol is the equivalent in our day of the Moloch of the Old Testament.
In the same interview Carter said that Jesus would approve of same-sex marriage, providing further testimony that when he speaks of “Jesus” he is not talking about the Jesus of orthodox Christianity. In this we can see the idea of the equality of the sexes taken to its logical conclusion. If the sexes are equal they are the same and interchangeable, and if that is the case, there can be no reasonable objection to a man marrying a man or a woman marrying a woman. If there are to be no distinct roles for men and women, there is no barrier to a man being another man’s wife, or a woman being another woman’s husband. For that matter, if the sexes truly are equal and therefore interchangeable, there is no barrier to a man being a woman or a woman being a man. Those who still believe in traditional, man-woman, marriage, and can see the gender insanity that has swept North America in the last couple of years for the madness it is, should think twice about jumping aboard Jimmy Carter’s “equality of the sexes” train for that is the vehicle that has led us to this terminus.
Climbing aboard that train is not an option for orthodox Christians of any denomination. We are to evaluate the ideals of our culture by the truths of the Holy Scriptures and not the other way around. We are not to be like King Jehoiakim of Judah, cutting out parts of the Scriptures we don’t like and burning them. We cannot have Galatians 3:28 without 1 Timothy 2:9-15. If husbands are to love their wives, wives must submit to their husbands. If in our doctrine we reject the authority of fathers/husbands for the sake of equality, we will find that authority not so easy to undermine. Children will continue to look to their fathers for the leadership and direction that God has appointed them to provide, and if men are driven from the pews by these feminist attacks on the role of father and husband from the pulpit, the children will follow them out, a fact to which the rapidly shrinking and aging congregations of the churches that have gone this route bears testimony. Look to their example and be warned.
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