Believe it or not, Stacy and I are supposed to be on vacation! It is like a second honeymoon of sorts. But, we continue to ponder the events in politics and the impact it has had on the church.
I have two blog posts written on this subject, but I am praying through them before I launch. However, Pastor Doug Wilson wrote a thoughtful summary of the issues and positions today. I would encourage you all to give it a read.
An Epistemological Pileup
All right. As far as I can make out, our debate over Sarah Palin revolves around three distinct issues, all three of which have merged in a highly entertaining and jumbled fashion — a sort of epistemological pile-up.
The first is the propriety of voting for a Republican. A large number of us (myself included) have been let down so many times by these people that anything, no matter how good it looks, feels to us like Lucy setting up the football for Charlie Brown one more time. Just one more time. Please?
The second issue is the propriety of voting for a woman to hold civil office, exercising authority over men in that realm. Some argue from the clear biblical teaching on male headship in the family and the equally clear biblical teaching on the requirement for male leadership in the Church, and say that we can extend this restriction into the civil realm. And I believe that we could do this, were it not for the clear scriptural counterexample.
And last, we have the concerns that revolve around the age of Sarah Palin’s children. The idea is that there is no way for her to fulfill her obligations to her family, which are fixed by God, and also fulfill the obligations she would have as vice-president.
Some of those with concerns only have one of these concerns. Some have all three. Some don’t have any. Shake vigorously and discuss. For my purposes here, I want to address them seriatim.
First, it has been well said that Washington contains two parties — the Evil Party and the Stupid Party. And some of us began to suspect a number of years ago that the stupidity of the SP was beginning to look like it was being done on purpose, making it therefore a higher and more nefarious form of evil. The serpent was more subtle than all the beasts of the field.
At the end of the day, this issue is a matter of trust and the believability of individuals. And if someone trusts someone that you cannot bring yourself to trust, then that’s okay. Free country. It would be a moral issue if someone were to say, “Yes, I know these promises are all a sham, but I am going to pretend to believe them anyway.” That is willful blindness. But differences of opinion are not in that category. I can easily see how men of good conscience could differ over whether Ronald Reagan’s campaign promises were trustworthy or not. If you don’t believe it, then don’t. It is the candidate’s job to persuade you, not your job to prove to his satisfaction that he is untrustworthy.
For what it is worth, as I think back over all the votes I have cast in presidential elections from the seventies down to the present, sometimes for Republicans and more recently not, the only person that I know I would vote for again is Ronald Reagan. And this despite the fact that he had a pretty rocky relationship with some of his kids, and on that basis I believe him to have been disqualified to hold office in a local church. The offices are different. I would do this because I agreed with him on the key political issues, and believed that he agreed with me. I can understand why others would not believe him — but I do maintain that I can think this way without being a ninnyhammer.
The idea that women should be excluded from civil office, period, is an exegetical question, and one that I believe that can be settled because of the perspicuity of Scripture.
A curse is pronounced on a people in Isaiah 3:12 that is relevant to this discussion. It is possible that this is not referring to actual women, but to girly men, to effeminate men. To men of arrested development, and a junior high approach to sex. Bill Clinton comes to mind. In other words, the men who rule are being called womanish, or childish. Like calling Ralph Nader matronly.
Like I said, that is possible. But I take it in the more straightforward sense — that a society is under a weight of judgment when it has a dearth of men capable of exercising godly rule. This could happen because the men are all dead, or gone, or they are abdicating wimps. In any case, I believe this really would be a judgment on a society. But it has nothing to do with — for example — Elizabethan England, one of the most masculine societies our civilization has ever produced. Whatever was going on in that day, Isaiah 3:12 wasn’t in the mix.
Because a husband is the head of his wife, for a wife to rule in the household inverts God’s order. But this does not mean that a wife cannot ever rule a household. In Acts 16, Lydia is very clearly the head of her household. This means that she had no husband, but without a husband, the household was her household. Given her status as a wealthy merchant, and the average size of that kind of household back in the day, she probably had a couple hundred people serving in that household.
But Scripture is silent on the numbers, so let me use a contemporary example. Suppose we have a husband and wife who are very wealthy. They have expansive grounds, and several lucrative businesses. He passes away, and she inherits all of it. After life gets back to normal, does she have the authority to tell the male gardener what to do? Can she tell the factory foreman, who is also male, what he should do? Can she exercise authority over full-grown men? You bet she can. There is nothing in the least disordered about it. Bring it down to a smaller scale. She owns a restaurant that she inherited from her husband. She is the manager. Can she tell the twenty-one-year-old dishwasher to step it up a bit, paco? Can she tell the hashslinger to sling hash a little faster? Of course. To argue otherwise is to fall into the fatal trap that feminists fall into all the time — they insist on getting into arguments with reality. They love arguing with the way things are.
Because men don’t usually all die at the same time, and because they are the heads of their homes, most businesses will be run by men. Most corporations will be run by men. Most societies will be run by men. This is as it should be, and I find nothing to complain about. Who is complaining? Not me, said the little black duck. But when the weird circumstance comes along and a male senator dies, and the party installs his widow in his place, I find nothing to complain about there either. Here and there this kind of thing happens, and I don’t care.
Of course I do care when a woman has been running for president since kindergarten. That is unseemly, but let us not mention names. But it is hardly better when a guy does it.
This kind of normal anomaly is exactly what we find in Scripture in the case of Deborah. This is obviously an unusual circumstance, but there is nothing in the text to suggest that it was unusual because of all the wimpy men. Deborah was a mother in Israel (Judg. 5:7), and she was married to Lapidoth (Judg. 4:4). She authoritatively summoned Barak and told him what he needed to do with his armies (Judg. 4:6). He refused to go unless she went with him. She responded that because of his conditions, the glory of killing Sisera would go to a woman, not a man. And that was fulfilled in the heroic actions of Jael the wife of Heber.
But notice what this means. Barak lost glory that was coming to him because he did not just simply obey the word fo the Lord that came to him. Talking back to a prophet, and setting conditions on your obedience, is not the way to go. That was the problem. Barak forfeited honor because he did not obey a woman.
Deborah did not say that the glory of Sisera’s death would go to a woman because Barak had obeyed her first summons. She did not say that there was any problem whatever with him functioning as a general under a female leader in Israel. She did not say, nor does the text say, that there was anything wrong with what she was doing. The text does not breathe a hint of disapproval, and I would suggest that it is dangerous for us to treat this as anything other than what it appears to be in the text — a curious but lawful exception to the way things usually go.
St. Paul bars women from rule in the church. So should we. Paul teaches that men are head over their wives. So should we. Luke teaches that a woman can function in a household without a head over her. So should we. The writer of Judges, without blinking, tells us of the faithful rule of Deborah, a mother in Israel. We shouldn’t blink either, not if we begin and end, where we should, with the Bible.
The third issue is the number of Sarah Palin’s kids, and their ages. This is the one that has the most compelling weight, at least in my thinking. How can she possibly discharge her responsibilities in the home and in the office of vice-presidency simultaneously? It is a very good question and, were I her pastor, it is one that I would have pressed on Palins in all sincerity. It is not an irrational question, but I don’t really think I would have had to press it. In fact, it is so obvious that I have trouble believing that Todd and Sarah Palin didn’t spend long hours talking about what they would do if this, and if that. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know how well or how poorly they are going to arrange it. We shall see. I honestly don’t know how they will do, although the signs appear to me to be at least somewhat hopeful. Despite their problems, the family appears to be tightly-knit. Their oldest son is now in the army, and off on his own. Their second is going to be married soon. That leaves three.
In that context, I need to say that I am not quite sure how to bring up the next point. Americans are uncomfortable with “aristocracy,” with those who can afford servants. But if she is elected, like it or not, Sarah Palin will then be in that class. As she made apparent in her speech last night, when she told us how she let the cook go so that she, the governor, could cook the meals instead, she probably won’t like having servants around any more than a bunch of her critics like her having them around. But she will still have them, and if she organizes her life with her priorities remaining with her family, as she ought to, then it is not necessary to hold dogmatically that the family has to turn out a train wreck because of this. Could be, but we don’t know yet, and we can’t know without a good more information.
Think that is enough for now? But there will be more later.