The New Absolutism - RR132A1
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|This transcript is unedited. It was:|
|Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library|
|Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules|
|Posted by with permission.|
Thank you. It is always a pleasure to be here at Reform. I shall, in this series, in this class, be dealing with Contemporary Cultural Ethics. In the series in Dr. Smith’s class in the afternoon I will begin, this afternoon, with Ethics, Monastic or Militant. And, my subject there will be to trace the unhappy influence in Protestantism of what essentially is early medieval ethics. So that Protestantism has become, in effect, a new monasticism. Our subject this morning is The New Absolutism. Toward the end of 1975 the evangelical women’s caucus met in Washington D.C. to promote the cause of feminism. The key note speaker was Professor Virginia Ramey Mollenkott. Professor Mollenkott was professor of English at William Patterson College and has been from the beginning of Christianity Today a highly favored writer in that publication. I must confess her arguments at all times have been anything but highly favored with me. According to news dispatch concerning that meeting in Washington D.C. Dr. Mollenkott spoke as follows, and I quote at some length from this news report. Mollenkott argued that when properly understood, the Bible supports the central tenants of feminism and took on the more traditional evangelicals who triumphantly site New Testaments instructions of the submission of first century wives and church women as proof that it is forever the will of God for women to remain subordinate. The basic strategy that Mollenkott argues is that the culture of the Bible must be deabsolutized. A reading some Biblical literalists might have trouble with. Because Patriarchy is the cultural back drop of Scriptures, she argued, it is absolutely basic to any feminist reading of the Bible that one cannot absolutise the culture in which the Bible is written. We cannot assume, she told the 360 women at the conference, that because the Bible was written against the backdrop of the patriarchal social structure patriarchy is the will of God for all people in all times and in all places. Mollenkott then raised two examples of culture influence practices permeating Biblical material which have been repudiated even by evangelicals in contemporary times; the notion of the divine right of kings, including absolute monarchy, and the issue of slavery. She notes that the Biblical authors assumed that kings ruled by divine right and that absolute monarchy was divinely ordained and therefore God was frequently spoken of in terms of kingship. [00:03:53]
Yet, although traditionalists insist that Pauline instructio...
Yet, although traditionalists insist that Pauline instructions to first century wives and churches are normative in all times and all places, they do not insist on a return to absolute monarchy and they do not require 20th century Americans to think and speak of God in royal terms. Much the same argument is made in terms of the issue of slavery. Because the Biblical culture practices slavery the relationship between God and humanity is sometimes pictured as a master-slave relationship, she said. The imagery of slavery and mastery is very foreign to the modern era and neither traditionalists nor feminists would think of addressing God as “our master who art in heaven” nor would they insist that contemporary Christians refer to themselves as the slaves of God. We all agree that one can be a Biblical Christian without believing in slavery. In fact, most of us, even traditionalists would go further and say that enslaving other people is a practice antithetical to genuine Christianity. Biblical feminists then, she argued, are asking that in the male-female relationship as in the areas of slavery and the monarchy we be consistent about deabsolutising Biblical culture. Now, of course, her statements are a serious misrepresentation of the Bible. I will deal with three misrepresentations in her statement not because they are essential to my argument but in order to clear the ground before proceeding with the question of The New Absolutism. [00:05:48]
First of all the divine right of kings is not taught...
First of all the divine right of kings is not taught in the Bible nor monarchy. Rather the divine predestination behind all things, all authorities, parents, rulers, authorities in every area. For example Proverbs 8:15-16 says, “By me kings reign and princes decree justice.” By me princes rule and nobles even all judges, that is rulers, of the earth.” Again in 1 Samuel 8:1-22 the Lord makes it clear that in choosing monarchy Israel was rejecting God as King. Her argument therefore that the Bible teaches the divine right of kings is ridiculous. The very doctrine is not only alien to Scripture but in the form she sites it is a part of the modern era. Then, second, she speaks of slavery as basic to the Bible. But, it is an interesting fact that the KJV very wisely avoided entirely the use of the word slave except I believe in two instances where it refers, in the prophets, to a situation of regard to a foreign power. Slavery is not a part of the Biblical ethics or of any excepted part Israel’s practices as far as God’s law is concerned. First of all, although foreigners could be bought as life time slaves according to Leviticus 26:39-46 they had a duty to work to convert these people and on conversion they were free men. No fellow believer could ever be enslaved. There could be sp??bondservantood but there had to be release after a period of time for debt. There could be bond sp??servantood and for crimes to work out restitution. Those were entirely different things. [00:08:11]
If a man mistreated a bondservant or maimed him it...
If a man mistreated a bondservant or maimed him it gained him freedom and some compensation. Slaves had to be treated as members of the family. The law forbad there return if they fled because their situation was a voluntary one. Now this was recognized through the centuries as a matter of fact in Medieval Europe many of the converts to Judaism were Christians who had been purchased as slaves and therefore having, at some date, excepted Judaism whether nominally or really had to be set free. And the same was true even though it was violated by many in Christian circles. They recognized the validity of the law. This posed in fact in Colonial America a legal problem in that the first converts among the Negro slaves, after a period of six years the seventh year went to court and sued for their freedom. It created quite a legal tangle for a while until finally some state legislatures ruled against Biblical law at that point. So, the Scripture is clear and Mollenkott is ignorant of Scripture. And third, Mollenkott argues against the patriarchal structure of the Bible. She is unwilling to look at the Biblical facts, ore the biological facts, clearly. There is a very interesting book that I can refer you to, Steven Goldberg, an anthropologist, who has written a very telling book entitled The Inevitability of Patriarchy. [00:10:10]
A nonpatriarchial view of society Goldberg argues is...
A nonpatriarchial view of society Goldberg argues is impossibility and he does not say that men are superior. As a matter of fact it is an interesting thing that in testing of various kinds of aptitudes and abilities with regard to sex man excels only in two areas. You would have to say by in large women are superior. The two areas, in which men are superior, according to various tests that have been devised by anthropologists and social scientists and psychologists, are aggression, which we would say in Biblical terms dominion, and abstract thinking. Women’s thinking is concrete, it is specific, it is particular and they far exceed man there and in other areas. Thus, the testimony of contemporary anthropology is that patriarchy is inevitable. The Biblical view of society as such is that you cannot abstract patriarchy from it without destroying Scripture. Patriarchy is not the culture in which the Bible is written but that which the Bible plainly requires. As a matter of fact, when he speaks of the Pauline instruction as being a part of the culture of the day the fact is that the culture of the day, the Greco-Roman culture, was militantly feminist. Now this brings us to our point. Mollenkott, when calling for deabsolutising the culture in which the Bible is written, is not saying that we abandon Canaanite, Babylonian or Greek or Roman cultures but that we abandon Biblical law for humanistic law, the culture that God requires for the culture of 20th century humanism. She is not advocating the abolishing or the abandonment of absolutism but only of Biblical absolutism in favor of modern humanistic absolutism. What we must tell her and all like her is that we must rather deabsolutise modern culture. That it is our duty to proclaim the Word of God, the absolute Word, and demand that modern man deabsolutise himself, deabsolutise his culture. [00:13:36]
The issue today is not feminism vs...
The issue today is not feminism vs. male supremacy but the Word of God and if we get too involved in issues whatever the right or wrong of those issues be, we lose the center. The issue is thus not, for example, integration vs. segregation, but the sovereignty of the Word of God and the fact that it is the Word of God that must create culture, not humanistic conditions or requirements. We do not approach our problems from our perspective as southerners or northerners but as Christians. We do not speak out of the context because then we absolutise the context but from the Word of God which speaks down to the context from the perspective of the Sovereign God. And this has been the fallacy you see of conservatives and of liberals, of radicals and reactionaries, they absolutise the context and therefore, whether they are right or wrong about the particulars of the context they wind up wrong because it is only the Word of God that can govern not the context. We cannot take, as many people do, the fruits and neglect the tree. This is the weakness over and over again of many conservatives for example. They are for God and country but God is an insurance policy. We may agree with them as to the specifics of causes but we have to say you begin theological. The absolutes are here in the Sovereign and in the Triune God. It is the authoritative Word of God that must govern, which must prevail. Our absolutes are not on earth. They are not in 20th century culture Dr. Mollenkott, to the contrary. Those who work to deabsolutise the Bible are working for a new absolutism. This absolutism may be democracy, it may be communism, it may be feminism, it may be male supremacy, it could be equality or inequality. It could be a many number of things. We live today in a world of militant new absolutes, humanistic absolutes. How heavily this new absolute have penetrated modern society and of the church is apparent in the popularity of pastoral psychology. [00:17:14]
Now, I must begin by stating that I have a deep seated...
Now, I must begin by stating that I have a deep seated emotional prejudice against the subject of pastoral psychology. I recognize that there is validity and there is a great deal of merit in its study but the thing that sets my teeth on edge is that today the kind of book the pastors read is pastoral psychology. After leaving seminary serious theological works are rarely read by the clergy. Their reading is in the field of pastoral psychology. There is two kinds of books today that are big sellers; occultism on the one hand and pastoral psychology, or any kind of psychology, on the other. Do you see the absorption of man and his problems that this represents? And I submit that, while man has his problems and these problems need to be dealt with, they are not going to be dealt out of the context of the problem, from the approach of psychology, but by beginning with theology and seeing psychology and anthropology as branches of theology. Only if you have a valid doctrine of God will you have a valid doctrine of the mind or of the soul of man. And pastoral psychology, you see, begins out of the new absolutism and its context. You begin where the people are, they tell us. Begin with man and his problems, man and his needs. No, you begin with the Sovereign God and His Word. The emphasize on psychology, of course, is existentialist. Later in the week I will site the proclamation of some existentialist’s that psychology has replaced theology in the modern world. It has ousted philosophy, metaphysics, and ethics. That the basic motive in the modern world any longer, it is psychology, the needs of man. How can man enjoy life more, have fewer problems? The concern is not with the glory of God but with the potential glory of man. [00:20:31]
In existentialism man is ultimate...
In existentialism man is ultimate. The basic assertion of existentialism is the asaity of man.