Southern Baptist Leaders' Comments Echo 'Biblical Patriarchy' Theology
Friday, April 25, 2008 12:00 am
Thoughts about subordination of women that brought censure to a female presenter who critiqued them in a recent apologetics conference at Midwestern Baptist Theological seminary find some parallel in recent history of the Southern Baptist Convention, according to an analysis by EthicsDaily.com.
As EthicsDaily.com reported Wednesday, Cynthia Kunsman, a writer who specializes in spiritual-abuse issues, described "biblical patriarchy" as an "intolerant ideology" that has arisen in the last 15 years among homeschoolers as a "disproportionate Christian response" to cultural decline.
As a "prototypical framework" for what most adherents follow, Kunsman looked at practices of Vision Forum, a group founded in 1998 by Doug Phillips, son of former presidential candidate and Nixon White House staffer Howard Phillips. A trained lawyer who formerly worked for the Home School Legal Defense Association, Doug Phillips also leads at Boerne Christian Assembly in San Antonio, Texas, and founded the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches.
At one time, Kunsman said, Vision Forum's The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy classified any alternatives to homeschooling and "non-normative" roles for women like being educated or working outside the home as sins, but toned the statement down because it didn't go over well.
The current statement views God as masculine and says God ordained gender roles giving men authority over their wives as part of the created order.
"Since the woman was created as a helper to her husband, the bearer of children, and a 'keeper at home,' the God-ordained and proper sphere of dominion for a wife is the household and that which is connected with the home, although her domestic calling, as a representative of and helper to her husband, may well involve activity in the marketplace and larger community," the article says.
Though the movement is not monolithic, Kunsman said, but "encompasses many different denominations within Christianity," some of those ideas are not foreign to similar comments by SBC leaders.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary recently hired an assistant professor of homemaking in the College at Southwestern for an emphasis launched this fall to train women in Christian homemaking. In announcing the program at the SBC annual meeting last summer, seminary president Paige Patterson said, "We are moving against the tide in order to establish family and gender roles as described in God's word for the home and the family."
Patterson's wife, Dorothy, endorsed one of Doug Phillips' books, and Phillips spoke fondly of an hour he and Paige Patterson spent discussing African safaris when both were speakers at a Memorial Day conference in 2003.
Vision Forum believes God's command to "be fruitful and multiply" still applies to married couples. In her lecture Kunsman spoke of "militant fecundity" associated with the movement.
"It is the duty of Christians to bear large families full of godly seed to populate the earth and bring forth what God intended us to have, particularly in America," she said. "That's how we're going to get our Christian America."
"I have read on blogs where people have said, 'Salvation comes through the womb and not the cross,'" Kunsman said.
That notion also sounds familiar to regular readers of EthicsDaily.com. In 2005 we told the story of Baptists who subscribe to a "full-quiver" theology that leaves decisions about family planning up to God.
Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said married couples who choose to remain childless are guilty of "moral rebellion" against God's design. Mohler later said one of his concerns was under-population.
"We are barely replenishing ourselves," Mohler told the Chicago Tribune. "That is going to cause huge social problems in the future."
Russell Moore, theology dean at Southern Seminary, said Southern Baptists need to increase their birth rate if they are going to keep up with growing denominations like Mormons and the Church of God.
Phillips doesn't believe the Bible supports artificial birth control. Mohler has lamented a "contraceptive culture" that regards pregnancy "as equivalent to a disease." Dorothy Patterson compares using birth control pills to having an abortion. Mohler has also said that couples who use in-vitro fertilization to conceive are on morally shaky ground.
Phillips says it's a waste of money to invest in an expensive college education for daughters.
"It seems very pragmatic," Kunsman said in her lecture. "Why pour a lot of resources when you've got 10 kids and sons to train? You don't want to train your daughter in quantum physics."
Phillips says in his own words: "We do not need MORE female Christian lawyers, doctors or artists, but MORE godly women raising MORE godly children who will fill the earth and subdue it to the glory of God. And does it really make economic sense to invest tens of thousands of dollars for a woman to get an advanced education (often having to go into debt to finance that education) that she will NOT use if she accepts that her highest calling is to be a wife and mother?"
Paige Patterson worries that the fact that 60 percent of college and university students are now female means that men will become underrepresented in the intelligentsia and women will ascend into new roles that distract them from the home.
"Women have been liberated right out of the genuine freedom they enjoyed for centuries to oversee the home, rear the children, and pursue personal creativity; they have been brainwashed to believe that the absence of a titled, payroll occupation enslaves a woman to failure, boredom, and imprisonment within the confines of home," Dorothy Patterson wrote.
Vision Forum believes that "Christians should not send their children to public schools since education is not a God-ordained function of civil government and since these schools are sub-Christian at best and anti-Christian at worst."
Mohler has called on responsible Christian parents to develop an "exit strategy" from public schools.
Phillips also promotes the Family Integrated Church model, which caters to homeschool families and rejects the program approach used in traditional churches that divides families into age groups and segregates them for religious activities.
The Fundamentalist Baptist Bible Fellowship denounced the Family Integrated Church as "doctrinally errant and schismatic." Southern Seminary, meanwhile, adopted it as a new model for its School of Leadership and Church Ministry.
"We think this is the direction that our churches really need and want and there is a great vacuum in evangelical theological education for such a program," Mohler said in describing newly hired Dean Randy Stinson's family-integrated ministry emphasis.
"We at Vision Forum have raised serious objections to: (1) the working-woman philosophy of the late 20th century; (2) the cultural depravity of the modern university; (3) the feministic philosophy of the anti-complementarian, pro-egalitarian household leadership; (4) the culture of death and self-gratification, with its emphasis on closing the fruitful womb; and (5) attempts by liberals or vendetta-driven individuals to viciously mock fruitful mothers as baby machines, etc, says an article on the group's Web site.
Evangelical Ministries to New Religions asked Kunsman to remove references to both the sponsoring organization and the SBC-related seminary where the conference was held from YouTube postings of her presentation, accusing her of "unwarranted and misinformed accusations against Christian teachers and ministries, including the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and agencies within the Southern Baptist Convention."
Kunsman complied with that requested but declined to remove the videos, claiming she didn't misrepresent anyone. She theorized her rebuke was because of political pressure.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Previous related story:
Speaker Chastised Over Criticism of 'Biblical Patriarchy' at SBC Seminary