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Friday, September 21, 2007

Reflections on September

At the tail end of the discussion on this post, after Ellen and I had exchanged a few thoughts, :-) Jeremy made a comment, and I have excerpted this part, without intending to detract from his whole comment,
    Mutual submission involves people submitting to others according to their authority. I submit to the elders of my congregation and to my governing authorities in the workplace and in civil life in general. My wife submits to me. I do not submit to my wife even if I love her as Christ loved the church, because Christ doesn't submit to the church. We submit to him. I think your argument does nicely apply to that case, since there's no sense in which the church is in authority over Christ.

    I don't see anywhere in scripture that clearly refers to anyone submitting to anyone else when there isn't an issue of authority.
I had a few reflections on this comment. It's September, when I like to write about my job, because so many new situations arise that require thought. I have moved into a slightly new role without losing any of my old ones, a familiar circumstance during cutbacks.

I am in charge of a group of special education assistants, who support our students with special needs, with Down's syndrome, hearing impairments, along with the learning disabled, and gifted learning disabled.

I also have to spend part of each day in the classroom team teaching with another teacher. This can be dicey, good intentions often crash. There is nothing like finding that I am on a team with another teacher who only knows how to be a leader, or with one who only knows how to be a follower.

I remember many years ago, another resource teacher sat me down and explained the way it is. "Some teachers will treat you like their servant, and some will treat you like their master, you just have to figure out which it is, and go with it."

However, in this school, I have finally begun to see other teachers really team teaching. This year I am working in the classroom with a teacher I know well but haven't "team taught" with before. After two weeks, it has turned out that we both know how to do it. The turn-taking is seamless, we each let the other talk, we work with students, one-on-one, or in groups, or with the whole class, we design assignments, and teaching points, we just get the job done. We both lead, we both follow. We are doubly productive.

Who says that people cannot submit to each other without authority? Of course, there is an authority - we have an administrator, someone who more or less says, "Get the job done and I don't want to hear about any problems between now and the end of June." Even though I work in a very secular environment, it happens that our administrator used to attend Gordon Fee's church.

After team teaching in the morning, I get back to my room and work with a small group, then I have the special needs assistants around for individual planning. Next on the agenda is the tech inquiry group meeting. A bit of a snooze, but I know turning up at this meeting gets me little gold stars in my personnel file.

And finally, it is Friday afternoon, and a group of former students from the high school - all who are familiar with my room because it is where they learned how to read - hang out and help younger students. They are computer buddies, or reading buddies, or whatever. One teenage boy is helping a little guy who doesn't know left from right, how to use a mouse (how to master the right click). Several other teenagers, who had reading difficulties of their own, are listening to younger students read. And, of course, some are playing with the dolls' house or train set. There are no gender rules about this either!

However, I have to explain to these teenagers how to teach someone else. I have to help the teenager let go of the mouse himself, and let the little one learn. It is a tough stage to go through, letting go of the controls oneself and letting the other person learn.

But at the end of the day, I realize that I have gained an understanding of what it means to demonstrate or model, and give over autonomy.
    Submit to one another.

    And the things you have heard me say commit to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.

    Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them.
Good verses for life, they get me off to a fresh start every September.

22 Comments:

At Sat Sep 22, 08:20:00 AM, Blogger Iris Godfrey said...

In response to thoughts by Jeremy: Christ Jesus only does what His body (individual Christians) will allow Him to do in them and through them. I suggest that this is indeed an act of submission.

Authority empowers submission. For example, John 13 when the Lord of all washed feet as an example so His followers, who would be the great Apostles, would understand that no matter what authority they have, their job is to serve and that means wash feet. Authority empowers submission. Where there is no submission to the will of others, then it is an abuse of true authority.

One who is truly "head" leads the body, but must be aware of the body's needs and at times submit to its care.

Just some thoughts.

 
At Sat Sep 22, 09:19:00 AM, Blogger Bob MacDonald said...

I think Iris has caught an important issue in the first comment on this post. Jeremy in saying 'I do not submit ...' is carrying logic beyond validity. Submission is not a mathematical relationship that its contra-positive should be assumed. In math A<B means B>A. (This is not true in computers where the completeness is known only for non-null values.) In math the second statement is true given the first. In natural language A submits to B does not imply that B does not submit to A. But disputing should not be our practise in any case. With respect to authority in sexual relations - 1 Corinthians 7:4 is explicit - the man has no power over his own body, the wife has it. The other side is also written there and is often forgotten by the male. The male has selective memory - at least so my experience tells me, and I should know, being male. In any case, the sexual relationship is clearly one of mutual non-power between male and female. If as Iris indicates, authority empowers this release of power to another (submission) then Paul is far more egalitarian than those who misread him would allow.

 
At Sat Sep 22, 10:29:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

I didn't say that someone in authority cannot do something that in English is perfectly fine to call submission. I in fact said the opposite. I said there are lots of things you can do that would be perfectly fine to call submission, and the idea Wayne has been presenting as mutual submission is something that I think is not just biblical but obviously so.

What I said is that I'm not convinced that the passages in the NT that use terms translated into English as "submission" may not mean that. To be sure if they mean that, I'd need to find an unambiguous and completely clear case of those words being used in scripture that clearly and undeniably involve someone in authority submitting to someone under their authority with respect to the issue that submission is taking place with. I know of no such case. I don't see any submission-language in John 13, for instance. I do see serving-language.

 
At Sat Sep 22, 11:17:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jeremy,

It is not just about gender, is it? It is a whole mindset, a need for hierarchy.

And yet, we have moved towards democracy in other areas of life. Men live in a democratic state, and benefit from unions which force employers to submit to them. I am represented by a union, aren't you?

So when all the other hierarchies of ancient life have been turned into democracies, by, for the most part, Christians, men still want hierarchy in the home. They want to be served by hierarchy, but they do not want to serve a human hierarchy. (I do not agree that a democratic, bureaucratic institution is the same kind of hierarchy as a twosome where one submits to the other.) Some men want the freedoms of democracy for themselves, but they do not offer this freedom to their wives.

 
At Sat Sep 22, 12:59:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

the idea Wayne has been presenting as mutual submission is something that I think is not just biblical but obviously so.

Jeremy, this may be obvious to you, but it is not obvious to me or presumably to Wayne. So perhaps you would care to elaborate, being careful in the process to give your exegesis of Ephesians 5:21 where the language of submission is explicitly used mutually. Also, what do you make of 1 Corinthians 7:4 where the language of authority is used mutually?

You imply a distinction between serving language and submission language, but how can one person serve another without submitting to them? Indeed, surely we see Jesus submitting to his disciples, if only symbolically, when he performs the actions of a servant by washing their feet. To me, the idea of Jesus submitting himself, rather than being foreign to the Bible as you seem to suggest, is in fact central to it (yes, even to the OT where the Servant who "gave his back to the smiters", Isaiah 50:6 RSV, prefigures this) and to the gospel.

 
At Sat Sep 22, 01:08:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, I wonder why the Lord keeps surrounding me with people who work with those with learning disabilities. In my weekly church house group of about a dozen, four people do this as a job and another is the father of a son with learning difficulties. At least two other people I know in my church are in this work. And there is you. They are all women, except for the father, I wonder why? Maybe because, at least if I am typical, men don't have the patience for this kind of work!

 
At Sat Sep 22, 01:50:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Peter,

I definitely think this is cultural. It is socially acceptable work for women. I did not want to work with young children at all, until after my own started growing up. I also got into this when I really needed a job and had no alternative. But the intellectual challenge of making breakthroughs in communication is endlessly intriguing.

I have worked with male kindergarten teachers and I can say that they are truly brilliant at the job and do not sacrifice any masculinity.

It is just one of those things.

 
At Tue Sep 25, 04:46:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

No, I'm not in a union. I have been, and the very idea of it strikes me as opposed to Christian submission. I think they did have good effects in the early days of unions, when real exploitation was going on, and they're still going to have good effects insofar as exploitation goes on (one clear case being adjunct faculty at colleges and universities, which is the union I was in until recently). But I can't wholeheartedly support it, because it does strike me as contrary to the principle behind the commands to slaves in the NT.

Peter, I'm not going to give a Greek exegesis of Eph 5:21. I'm not a Greek scholar, and I'm not convinced by this view. I haven't even read all the arguments. I'm just pointing out that one of the most important experts on the prison experts alive today (Peter O'Brien) thinks the verse refers to Christians submitting to each other in contexts where submission is appropriate, and those contexts are ones when one is in authority over the other. I would tend to give O'Brien's view at least some weight, and if it's wrong I'd like to see his arguments and some responses to them. I haven't explored this enough to be sure, but I wouldn't want to rule his view out, because it seems plausible to me.

As for how someone can serve another without submitting, that's pretty straightforward. Someone in authority can serve those they are over without submitting to their authority (something they don't have). They simply serve them. If you define the word 'submission' more broadly, as you do, then it's hard to see this, but what I'm saying is that (on O'Brien's view) the term has a more restricted meaning in these passages and refers only to submitting to those in authority over you, not to any case of serving others and putting others' interests first.

Peter, women tend to be more common in the service fields in general, partly perhaps because of something about women biologically, partly perhaps because of cultural expectations for what kinds of jobs men and women should do. There are far more women working in nursing, teaching in general, and mental health services. It's not surprising that women are more represented in other service fields. I actually can't think of anyone who has worked significantly in a professional capacity with our two autistic sons who are male. I do, however, know a man who specializes in teaching piano to autistic kids, and that will change once we start our son's lessons with him. There are three kindergarten teaches at their school. One of them is a man, and his class is the one that isn't inclusive with special education. That's one more anecdote to add to the list of anecdotes about this. He is definitely not an effeminate man, but he also is the one who does the purely mainstream class when it comes to special ed. inclusion.

 
At Tue Sep 25, 07:00:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Jeremy wrote:

I'm not going to give a Greek exegesis of Eph 5:21. ... I haven't even read all the arguments. ... I haven't explored this enough to be sure

Well, Jeremy, I really think you ought to go out and read all those arguments and explore the issue enough to be sure, before you continue writing comments all over this blog and others in which you seem to simply presuppose a view of these verses which is certainly by no means the obvious one. I shall make no apologies for continuing to call you out on this one.

They simply serve them.

I simply don't know what you mean to suggest that one person can serve another, that is, do what that other person asked them to do, without at least temporarily submitting to them. That is unless you narrow down your definition of "submission" into something meaningless.

 
At Tue Sep 25, 07:11:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

I haven't been presupposing any view. I've simply been pointing out that there is an alternative view that isn't subject to some of the objections being offered here against complementarian views. There's nothing wrong with recognizing that without being sure if the view is correct. I shall make no apologies for continuing to call you out on this one.

It is not meaningless to distinguish between seeking the interests and desires of someone else who is in authority over you or an equal with you and seeking the interests and desires of someone else who is under one's authority. That is indeed a meaningful distinction.

 
At Tue Sep 25, 11:05:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Jeremy, serving someone does not mean "seeking the interests and desires of someone else". That is patronising them, especially if "interests" is stressed, deciding for yourself what is in their interests and doing that. Serving them means offering to do what they tell you to do and doing it. It is seeking their desires by asking them. Of course I understand your confusion because there is such a long tradition of Christian "service", and indeed government "service", which is in fact patronising others, even patronising God. It is quite possible to patronise another while retaining authority over them. But to truly serve them that authority needs to be at least temporarily surrendered.

 
At Tue Sep 25, 12:09:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

That's one more anecdote to add to the list of anecdotes about this. He is definitely not an effeminate man, but he also is the one who does the purely mainstream class when it comes to special ed. inclusion.

That is just happenstance, Jeremy. I have worked with men who were kindergarten teachers, and special needs assistants, and I have seen men with a 5 year old on each arm. The year I worked with a male kindergarten teacher, two children lost their mothers, and the teacher himself also had his mother die.

He carried those kids around like babies. Men seriously underrate their own ability to care for children. I would have to say that the person who cared for me in the most nurturing way, by far, was my own grandfather. My mother was preoccupied with my younger sister who was sick.

In my view, the hierachic paradigm does more damage to the personalities of men than women.

I think of myself as having a high view of men and a poor view of hierarchy. Power corrupts and all that.

 
At Tue Sep 25, 12:10:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Is anyone familiar with L'Arche, the work started by Jean Vanier?

 
At Tue Sep 25, 12:58:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Suzanne, I wasn't trying to draw any conclusion. You made an observation, and Peter seconded it. I wanted to provide a couple more examples. I'm surprised you're expressing hesitation at my agreement with you.

Nevertheless, I don't want to assume that biology plays no role here. There is significance to the womb and to the fact that women bear children. Even women who have not borne children have the capability of doing so, at least in principle, and I think that affects how women see themselves with respect to children. It certainly affects how women see their own biological children as compared with how fathers do. Women carry a child for nine months before a father even has much contact with the child. It's bound to create a more nurturing element.

Peter, I never said anything about methods of determining what's in someone's self-interest. All I said is that we have a moral obligation to be concerned about others. Jesus did give such a method, of course, when he said to do to others what you'd want done to yourself. (He didn't say to do to them what they want for themselves, although I'm sure it will often involve that.) You can call that patronizing if you want, but I'm not willing to go there.

As for serving requiring the surrendering of authority, I think there are loads of counterexamples to that, but I think God the Father is a pretty good example. Whatever you're going to say about Jesus surrendering his authority, I can't see how that means the Father surrendered any authority in serving us by sending his Son to die for us, and I can't see how he surrenders his authority by serving us through influencing events to help teach us or to provide blessings for us. I can't see how the families in my congregation who provide meals for families who have just had a new baby are surrendering any authority. I don't know how to see it as surrendering authority if the elders of my congregation serve me by preaching sermons or by figuring out how best to structure a Sunday service to meet the needs of the congregation in gathering for public worship. How am I surrendering authority if I wash the dishes so my wife won't end up going them?

 
At Tue Sep 25, 01:38:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jeremy,

Women want to be able to make their own life decisions and not be dependent on the husband making a good decision for her. Because, guess what, men aren't perfect and neither are women. We are both sinful, but sheltering women from their own mistakes and making them the victims of their husbands mistakes is no way to treat people.

You do not address the command to treat others as you would like to be treated.

IMO, hierarchy and intimacy are simply not compatible, and not a model of Christ's teaching.

I think men can do an awful lot more than they think they can when it comes to babies. They rob themselves of something if they don't.

But, of course, having children is not all there is to life for either men or women. It is not the only happiness, and often it is a great sorrow, as well. Many people never have children.

I always feel that men underestimate women's desire to contribute, to have a job that is productive in society. ALthough at first children are that, eventually a woman has to have her own job, or coattail on a husband's job. If this is her choice there is nothing wrong with that. But if she has her own goals, why does the huaband always have priority?

 
At Tue Sep 25, 02:06:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

How am I surrendering authority if I wash the dishes so my wife won't end up going them?

Jeremy, you are not surrendering authority if you decide yourself to do the dishes out of love for your wife. That is following the Golden Rule, and that is not patronising. If you do the washing up because your wife asks you to, that is surrendering your authority and serving her. Christians are asked to do both.

I accept that it is not always patronising to do things for someone else without asking them, especially if (as with a husband and wife, hopefully) you know that it is something they want and really value. What is patronising is what so often counts as serving others, that is, doing for others what you think is good for them even if they don't think so, or when you have made no attempt to find out whether they think so.

Pastors are not serving their congregations or surrendering authority to them if they preach sermons that they have decided are helpful. That is not patronising because that is the pastors' proper sphere of authority.

But God does serve us and surrender his authority to us to the extent that he answers our petitionary prayers. Of course he has to limit the extent he does this for all kinds of reasons which we can't really understand.

 
At Tue Sep 25, 02:21:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

I have a friend who used to work for L'Arche.

You do not address the command to treat others as you would like to be treated.

Yes, I did. I think it reflects exactly how husbands should carry out the command to love their wives as Christ loved the church.

Women want to be able to make their own life decisions and not be dependent on the husband making a good decision for her.

Which is why I don't support the dictatorial model you keep attributing to me.

IMO, hierarchy and intimacy are simply not compatible, and not a model of Christ's teaching.

Well, so much for intimacy between the Father and Son during the period of hierarchy that egalitarians recognize (and intimacy between humans and God, for that matter).

I think men can do an awful lot more than they think they can when it comes to babies. They rob themselves of something if they don't.

I would tend to agree. That doesn't mean that women don't have a naturally deeper bond to their children.

I always feel that men underestimate women's desire to contribute, to have a job that is productive in society.

That may be, but I also think it's worth resisting the implication that caring for children is not contributing or being productive in society. Such a view is in fact patronizing.

ALthough at first children are that, eventually a woman has to have her own job, or coattail on a husband's job. If this is her choice there is nothing wrong with that. But if she has her own goals, why does the huaband always have priority?

I'm not sure how this has anything to do with complementarianism. The complementarian view doesn't get into details about what it means to submit or to have authority. The idea you're confronting here sounds like the traditional view that I thought complementarianism was responding to.

 
At Tue Sep 25, 03:25:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

If complementarians espouse the husband as leader and the wife as follower, as many teach, then a woman doesn't have her own goals.

Why not just treat women like adult humans beings and be done with it.

I am not attributing to you personally the dictatorial model. Let's keep this hypothetical. The possibility of abuse is there when the husband can choose himself what liberties he "gives" his wife.

 
At Tue Sep 25, 04:50:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Peter, sorry, I'm not buying the distinction between doing the dishes voluntarily and doing them because she asks me, at least not in terms of surrendering authority. I'd say the same of God answering prayers. I just can't see how that's surrendering authority. It's just directing the use of that authority to serve us. If God had surrendered his authority to us, then he wouldn't have the discretionary authority to choose which prayers to answer which way, and we would be able to make demands of whatever we want.

If complementarians espouse the husband as leader and the wife as follower, as many teach, then a woman doesn't have her own goals.

1. Complementarians do not "espouse the husband as leader and the wife as follower", at least not in as misleading a way as that sentence describes it. There might be some senses in which she follows him, but there are others in which she doesn't. Certainly any sense in which she has no goals would make it not complementarianism but a much more conservative traditional view, something more like Augustine's view perhaps.

The possibility of abuse is there when the husband can choose himself what liberties he "gives" his wife.

Well, duh. But we're not talking hypothetical views here. We're talking actual complementarianism. There are people who place themselves within the scope of that term who take such views, but it strikes me as so foreign to almost everything I've read from influential complementarians that I find it hard to take seriously the charge that this can straightforwardly be applied to complementarianism plain and simple.

 
At Wed Sep 26, 03:25:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

If God had surrendered his authority to us, then he wouldn't have the discretionary authority to choose which prayers to answer which way, and we would be able to make demands of whatever we want.

Yes, I take your point, if we leave aside John 14:13,14 which seem to suggest that we can make demands of whatever we want. True service and true submission, like that shown by Jesus, does not allow the servant to pick and choose which orders to obey. In the same way, if you agree to do the dishes for your wife but refuse to do the laundry, you are not really serving her, at least not in the sense of Greek douleuo as in Galatians 5:13 which really mean "act as a slave", but you are retaining authority over her.

 
At Wed Sep 26, 11:54:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jeremy,

Believe me, I pick this up from what I hear preached and what I read.

However, as I said at the end of the other thread - I need to pack this one up and leave it.

I'll be happy if both complementarianism and egalitarianism can be considered interpretations of scripture. I guess that is what Wayne is offering on his new blog.

 
At Wed Sep 26, 12:11:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Suzanne ended:

I'll be happy if both complementarianism and egalitarianism can be considered interpretations of scripture.

Yes, I don't think we can consider them anything else, especially since each side considers the other side's position to be unbiblical. As much as we might prefer otherwise, anything about which we disagree about in a text has to do with interpretation. Probably much of what we agree about does also, but we sometimes aren't too concerned about what is believed about the text in common.

I guess that is what Wayne is offering on his new blog.

Yes, a safe (I hope) place to discuss our differences in interpretation that is one of the current divides among conservative Christians. The church has tackled various issues at different times in its history.

It will still be very appropriate for us to debate the translation of authentein, kephale, and similar words which are part of the debate, but I think that we should try to stay with lexical, contextual, and cotextual evidence as much as possible. Other kinds of evidence, such as social implications, systematic theology, etc. should, IMO, not be presented on a blog about Bible translation.

I'll see you over there on the sister blog (hmm, why is it a sister blog, not a brother blog?).

 

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