Friday, October 12, 2007

Love-Hate

I'm in a love hate relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention. I'm a Baptist because I believe that on most issues Baptistic doctrine most accurately reflects Scripture. I'm a Southern Baptist by choice. Honestly. there are days I wonder if I've made the wrong one. Today is one of those days.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, led by Dr. Paige Patterson, while rightfully encouraging and stressing a complimentarian view of gender roles, is taking things too far. This fall the seminary launched a program that allows women (only) to earn credit towards a bachelor's degree by learning how to set tables, sew buttons and sustain lively dinner conversation. The program lead the author of an article in the LA Times to grossly overstate with broad, sweeping assumptions the biblical view of traditional biblical roles as a life where, "Men make decisions. Women make dinner."

Here is why I think SWBTS has gone too far, and it's not because I disagree with their theological conviction that women and men, while equal, were created to serve different roles and purposes as we practice dominion over the earth:

(1) Southwestern has assumed the responsibility of the local church and overextended its calling to equip called men and women of God with a theological education. While the heart behind this program may be sincere, it is not the responsibility of seminaries to mentor young women in this way; it is the responsibility of the church. In Titus 2:3-5, when Paul gives pastoral instruction to Titus, he clearly places the responsibility of mentoring as it relates to gender roles on older women within the local church. A seminary is not a church.

(2) While persecution and mockery are to be expected from our secular counterparts and the church should also be prepared for stinging, irresponsible, misrepresentative characterizations from culture, should we knowingly subject ourselves to such abuse? Peter tells us (1Pet 2:12)that we should live with such honorable conduct that when unbelievers speak of us as evil-doers (which is what feminists think the traditional roles of women are - evil), that they may see our good deeds and be persuaded to follow Jesus. How exactly is instituting a program where women receive seminary degrees for baking chocolate chip cookies and table settings going to accomplish this purpose? Doesn't advocating a degree in homemaking only reinforce the stereotypes that are associated with a traditional view of gender roles? Maybe I'm being too harsh in my critique of this program, but it seems to me that energy would be better spent living and loving Jesus in biblical community, pursuing causes of injustice and serving the poor, while at the same time loving our wives as Jesus loved the church (men) and submitting to your husband as the church submits to Jesus' leadership and authority (women), recognizing that this kind of relationship isn't about domination or keeping the wife quiet, barefoot and pregnant, but rather about a picture of the gospel so that the marriage becomes a platform for God's glory. Maybe this program is intended to accomplish this goal. I just don't see it. Isn't there a more winsome, compelling way to champion our equality but distinctiveness as men and women in our culture?

4 Comments:

At 2:05 PM , Anonymous mindy said...

Having been in the seminary environment where women often fail to receive the nurturing that God did intend the church to provide, I flourished from a program at SBTS where we were taught how to be Biblical wives, mothers & yes, even hostesses. Like it or not, those thing are a part of being a female in ministry. Just like being a male in ministry often means golfing or hunting or fishing with other men, being a woman in ministry often means cooking together, hosting dinners and doing things that are traditional female activities.

I can see no way in which this class demeans women or forces traditional roles on them. A woman has to choose to sign up for the course. If it were required, it would be a totally different matter.

I'm not sure I follow why this upsets you in terms of the SB denomination. You wrote that the LA Times wrote a negative article. How was Southwestern supposed to prevent that from happening? People are down on any and everything that our convention does that goes against the mainstream, but who cares? Frankly, I'm grateful that our seminaries still recognize & acknowledge that there is a created difference between men & women. While the rest of the world seeks to blur the lines as much as possible, I praise God for a denomination that holds to the Biblical interpretation of manhod & womanhood. Just my opinion.

I'm sure you've seen it before, but check out The Counsel on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood-- http://www.cbmw.org/ Interestingly enough, they're housed on Southern's campus.

 
At 7:11 PM , Blogger Ramona said...

I really don't get your problem with this. Forty years ago, I remember women (only) getting bachelor degrees in home economics. I saw nothing demeaning in a woman learning the chemistry involved in baking a loaf of bread, learning etiquette, or the finances in running a home.
So, when is our church going to institute a program to teach us (the women) to set tables, sew on buttons, or engage in lively dinner conversation? You'd better hurry while we still have a few women alive who can do this. (It's not me!)

 
At 9:26 PM , Blogger Meredith said...

Hahahahaha...

I just think it's funny that they have a program for that. I'd be embarrassed to be a part of it. As if that were my only purpose. Hosting parties and crocheting hats for babies or something.

 
At 11:22 PM , Blogger Aaron said...

I've looked at my post carefully and I never implied that the program "demeans" women - which is something both Mindy and Ramona picked up on.

Mindy raises a good point about the value of program that encourages and nurtures seminary wives. I think what jumped out at me about the program is that you are earning seminary credit for it. Do we have to give women the incentive of a degree in manners and home management for them to see the value of such a program? It seems to me that's what the seminary credits are there to do - give inherit worth to a program whose worth should be measured by its impact on the home - not on whether or not it secures a nice degree to hang on your wall. I think my main issue is with the degree - not with the class/program.

However, I still contend that SWBTS is assuming a role intended for the local church. Perhaps it is necessary because it exposes the deficiency and lack of biblical health and purpose in most local churches.

 

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