Sarah Palin, my kind of Republican

I don’t often comment on American politics. I suppose I tend to leave that to Americans, but that doesn’t stop Canadians like Kevin Sam giving their opinions. But I have made some exceptions for Obama, here and here, so partly for the sake of balance I will give some initial reactions to the surprise nomination of Sarah Palin as Republican candidate for Vice-President. In fact it was such a surprise that it seems Jim West confused her with Michael Palin!

From what I have read, including this BBC report and some others and this Wikipedia profile, Sarah Palin sounds like the kind of person I could support, if I could stomach Republican policies in general, especially on social issues like health care and on Iraq.

One piece of information which may be new: in 2002 Palin was defeated in the race for Lieutenant Governor of Alaska by Loren Leman who is the brother of Better Bibles blogger Wayne Leman.

It seems that Palin is a good Christian. At least this is how she is portrayed by the conservative World Magazine. This article says that she attends Wasilla Bible Church, which is non-denominational and evangelical. David Ker among others suggests that her denomination is Assemblies of God, but the evidence for this in fact suggests only that when she was a junior high student (so perhaps before the Bible Church opened in 1977 when she was 13) she attended Wasilla Assembly of God, and that when in the state capital Juneau she attends Juneau Christian Center which appears to be Assemblies of God. This all seems consistent with what was written at the Christianity Today politics blog. So, while she has not rejected her Pentecostal upbringing, her current preference is slightly different.

Palin is not at all the stereotypical conservative Christian woman. She has not stayed at home to manage her home and home school her five children (well spaced over 19 years), but has built her own career. Yet she chose to give birth to her Down’s Syndrome son earlier this year, rather than have an abortion because of his condition. She likes hunting and fishing, not typical feminine pursuits. Given her background in small town Alaska, where guns may be necessary protection from marauding moose and polar bears, I can almost forgive her membership of the National Rifle Association; but she will need to realise that policies which work in Wasilla (population under 6,000 when she was mayor, homicide rate zero in 2005) are not necessarily appropriate in Washington DC (population 588,000, homicide rate 169 in 2006 even after dropping by half since the early 1990s).

The interesting issue is why 72-year-old John McCain picked 44-year-old Palin as his running mate. The consensus seems to be that this was political expediency, picking a young and unusual outsider to balance an old Washington insider, to mirror the Obama-Biden ticket. That certainly makes a lot of sense for McCain, and explains his surprising choice. However, I think it is a good choice – or perhaps not, because it increases the chance of a Republican victory which could have all sorts of other serious repercussions for world peace, and for the health and welfare of poor Americans.

But anyone who votes for the McCain-Palin ticket has to reckon with the real chance that Palin will become President and Commander-in-Chief of US forces, a chance that is enhanced by McCain’s age. So they should not vote this way unless they think that Palin could be an appropriate President.

So this brings me back to the question which I first raised in comments on John Hobbins’ blog (note that there is already more than one page of comments on this post including at least three by me) and then again at Complegalitarian: is a woman Vice-President acceptable to conservative Christians, who are mostly at least in theory complementarian? If not, McCain might find himself losing a substantial number of votes just because he has a woman on his ticket.

Now some complementarians limit women to submissive roles only in the church and in the family. But others teach that women should never be in positions of authority over men even in the secular realm, and so would certainly not accept a woman as President or Commander-in-Chief. Among these is the well-known Bible teacher John Piper, who, in the book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood which he co-authored with Wayne Grudem, on pp.17-19 of this PDF file, wrote:

Mature femininity does not express itself in the same way toward every man. A mature woman who is married, for example, does not welcome the same kind of strength and leadership from other men that she welcomes from her husband. But she will affirm and receive and nurture the strength and leadership of men in some form in all her relationships with men. This is true even though she may find herself in roles that put some men in a subordinate role to her. Without passing any judgment on the appropriateness of any of these roles one thinks of the following possible instances:

  • Prime Minister and her counsellors and advisors.
  • Principal and the teachers in her school.
  • College teacher and her students.
  • Bus driver and her passengers.
  • Bookstore manager and her clerks and stock help.
  • Staff doctor and her interns.
  • Lawyer and her aides.
  • Judge and the court personnel.
  • Police officer and citizens in her precinct.
  • Legislator and her assistants.
  • T.V. newscaster and her editors.
  • Counsellor and her clients.

One or more of these roles might stretch appropriate expressions of femininity beyond the breaking point. …

But as I said earlier, there are roles that strain the personhood of man and woman too far to be appropriate, productive and healthy for the overall structure of home and society. Some roles would involve kinds of leadership and expectations of authority and forms of strength as to make it unfitting for a woman to fill the role. …

The God-given sense of responsibility for leadership in a mature man will not generally allow him to flourish long under personal, directive leadership of a female superior. J. I. Packer suggested that “a situation in which a female boss has a male secretary” puts strain on the humanity of both (see note 18). I think this would be true in other situations as well. Some of the more obvious ones would be in military combat settings if women were positioned so as to deploy and command men; or in professional baseball if a woman is made the umpire to call balls and strikes and frequently to settle heated disputes among men. And I would stress that this is not necessarily owing to male egotism, but to a natural and good penchant given by God.

It will be fascinating to see what John Piper and other complementarian leaders have to say about Palin as a candidate Vice-President. Interestingly Al Mohler, who doesn’t allow women to teach in his seminary, predicted Palin’s nomination back in May in an article about her Down’s Syndrome baby, but with no comment on whether she would be suitable. The only specific clearly negative comment I have seen is from Carmon Friedrich, called a “mover-and-shaker in patriarchy” by Molly Aley who quoted him:

Does God not ordain the means as well as the end? Why does she get a pass on the leadership issue and career mother problem just because she has the right views on abortion and helps make McCain more electable? If Christian complementarians/patriarchalists get behind this choice, then they undermine all their arguments for the creation order as the reason for opposing women in other areas of ministry. The Word of God calls the civil magistrate a “minister of God.”

Well, now we can look forward to more mothers telling their daughters, “You can be anything you want to be…even vice president!” How is this woman able to be her husband’s helpmeet and be a proper mother to her little ones with such huge responsibilities in her job?

On the other hand, the World Magazine article I mentioned earlier, despite the magazine’s generally complementarian position, comes close to endorsing Palin. And James Dobson is reportedly elated at the news. So how can these complementarians have this attitude? Perhaps it is that these people have a one track mind about politics: the only thing they care about is a candidate’s position on abortion. But then McCain who is not pro-life will not force through anti-abortion legislation for the sake of his VP, so anyone who votes for these two because she is pro-life is voting irresponsibly. Or perhaps John Hobbins is right on the facts, although wrong on the morality of them, when he writes the following astonishing endorsement of hypocrisy:

Consistency is the hobglobin of small minds. Ordinary people tend to get this instinctively. Eggheads like Piper and Grudem, maybe not.

It’s obvious that many people read P & G’s books without coming to agree with the notion that a woman by definition is unfit to be President of the United States, or drive bus, for goodness’ sake.

Well, let’s wait and see. If leaders like Piper come out against Palin, at least they are being consistent, and they may convince enough of their supporters to make a significant dent in McCain’s vote. If they don’t, they will be shown up as hypocrites. It will be interesting to watch!

44 thoughts on “Sarah Palin, my kind of Republican

  1. Pingback: The Emotional Cripple

  2. One point I missed is that Sarah Palin is apparently a member of Feminists for Life. Given the kind of rhetoric I have read from many complementarians against anyone (sometimes including myself) who calls themselves feminist or expresses any sympathy for feminist, it would be astonishing for them now to support a feminist, even a “for life” one.

  3. Politics and voting almost always involves some form of compromise. No candidate ever fulfils ALL that one wants so a choice to support is a compromise, somewhere along the line. However it seems that conservative Christians aren’t allowed to do that because that would be hypocritical, while every other voter remains utterly consistent…not sure about that.

  4. I’m an American, conservative, and Christian, and can’t figure out for the life of me why anyone else who claims to be all three would care AT ALL that Palin is a woman. It simply doesn’t matter. I *personally* know of no other American, conservative, Christian who would have a problem with this. Even those Christians that I know who have issues with women in leadership in ministry have no problem with women in leadership over men in the secular world. I’m not saying that there aren’t people out there like that…but it’s been my experience that it’s just not an issue.

    Perhaps there are even MANY Christians here in America with numerous letters after their name who will take issue with it, but for your average Christian here in America, it’s simply not an issue.

  5. Palin proves in deeds her love and courage: being a proud mother of five children, and a son with Down syndrome, is a good sign. I do not agree with creationism (I agree that there is a Creator God, a different thing). In any case, I think that I could trust in this woman. Even with a not long political experience.
    Good luck, America!
    Santiago, Granada (Spain)

  6. Pingback: Sarah Palin, Complementarianism and Abortion « Mustard Seed Kingdom

  7. To John Hobbins: it’s “a **foolish** consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” It’s not clear to me exactly why this would be a consistency that is necessarily foolish; if someone actually thinks for theological reasons that women aren’t qualified to even be a bus driver for men, then how could that same person vote for a woman to be a heartbeat away from being the most powerful person in the world (even if she did happen to have more experience than Palin). (As a side note, I’d actually claim that consistencies foolishly show themselves in the one issue voters who pay attention only to a candidate’s view of abortion, and don’t even look at other life issues, like war, the death penalty, health care, and poverty, not to mention everything else a candidate may make decisions on…)

    I’m guessing that there aren’t actually all that many complementarians who would choose to not vote for McCain/Palin (or other Republican women) on these grounds, whether they base it on pragmatic decision making or hypocrisy in the name of gaining power. My mom isn’t a big fan of women in high power jobs, but I’ll guarantee she’s voting for McCain/Palin (OK, let’s be honest, she’s voting on the Republicans’ abortion plank, but it means she’ll be casting a vote for Palin).

    And for the record, McCain is actually pro-life, although I think he tends to believe that states should primarily write and enforce these kinds of laws (I know that “against it but to be done by the states” has been his position on gay marriage).

  8. Whereas previously, a Down’s child could be born without the prior knowledge of the mother, going forward, a parent with a Down’s child will likely have made a conscious choice to have that child. As prenatal testing for trisomy 21 becomes ubiquitous, Down’s children (and eventually those with other genetic disorders) will increasingly become symbols of faith – a freak show meant to communicate the “family values” of their parents. The children will become public sacrifices made by their parents for their faith. They will be a symbol of religious reverence in the same way as the scarred backs of Catholics who flagellate themselves, or Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire, or Sunni Muslims who mutilate their girl’s genitals or Shiites who bloody their children’s heads with swords.

    Genuine moral virtues – such as integrity, honesty, and productivity are not useful as evidence of religious virtue. To the extent that their practical benefit is visible to everyone, they do not represent the special domain of religion. To demonstrate religious virtue, it is necessary to sacrifice authentic moral values in favor of “religious” values. The particular object of the sacrifice is not important – there is nothing particularly “biblical” about being prolife (the Christian bible just as easily supports the opposite position.) If Christian fundamentalists decided that cutting of one’s hand sufficed as proof of moral virtue, they would be wrong to do so, but not much more so than the numerous other ways that people find to be self-destructive.

    What is really vicious about fundamentalists in America is that the prey on the most vulnerable –poor pregnant young girls and women, those dying from painful terminal illnesses, the loved ones of brain-dead patients, — and children afflicted with terrible genetic illnesses. One can at least grasp the moral indifference with which a fundamentalist can force a single young mother to abandon her goals and dreams and condemn her and her child to poverty. But what can we say about a parent that chooses a life of suffering upon their child? If we are morally outraged by child rapists, how should we judge a parent who chooses a lifetime of suffering on their own child?

  9. Pingback: Sarah Pain, Down’s Syndrome and questions of ‘morality’ « Confessions of an Undercover Theologian

  10. Pingback: Sarah Palin, Down’s Syndrome and questions of ‘morality’ « Confessions of an Undercover Theologian

  11. I am friends with a guy with Donw Syndrome who works as a volunteer at our senior citizen’s club.

    I find it grossly offensive to imply he is a freak who should have been destroyed in the womb for his own sake.

    I find it equally offensive to imply his parents have self righteously chosen to inflict suffering on him for the sake of their own public morality.

    They will be a symbol of religious reverence in the same way as the scarred backs of Catholics who flagellate themselves, or Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire, or Sunni Muslims who mutilate their girl’s genitals or Shiites who bloody their children’s heads with swords

    Where does that (misleading and inflammatory) analogy end? My brother was born with a clubbed foot. The only difference it has made to his life was a short operation as a small child and it took him a little longer to ride a bike. Friends recently were offered an abortion because the child had a clubbed foot.

    Where does it end? What about really short people, is that a genetic defect? Are they symbols of faith for self righteous parents?

  12. Phil, if people like Piper clearly said that they disapprove of women candidates but reluctantly endorse McCain-Palin as less evil than Obama-Biden, that would not be hypocrisy. To endorse McCain-Palin without reservations would have to be understood either as hypocrisy or as a reversal of a previous position that women are unfit to be in positions of secular authority.

    And this is indeed Piper’s published position. He has explicitly written (as quoted above) that “there are roles that strain the personhood of man and woman too far to be appropriate, productive and healthy for the overall structure of home and society.” He surely means that these are at least some of the roles listed earlier in his article, with “Prime Minister”, effectively an equivalent role to President, at the top. He also mentions “in military combat settings if women were positioned so as to deploy and command men”, surely a role of a President. There is no way that anyone can read that article and conclude that Piper thinks a woman President is OK.

    Matt, I won’t call Mohler a hypocrite because I am not sure that he has argued what Piper has, that women should not be in authority even in secular matters. Rhea, it may indeed be that most complementarian Americans are like Mohler in having no problem with women in secular authority, but Piper is certainly an exception.

    Indecisive, if McCain believes that states should be able to decide about abortion, he should surely initiate a constitutional amendment to overturn the ban on states making their own laws on this. But will he, even with Palin behind him?

    Blue, thanks for replying to HeroicLife much as I would have. The people who suffer from the birth of Down’s Syndrome children are not the children, who are usually very happy, but their parents who are the ones who can make the choice between a heroic life by keeping the child and the cowardly way out of killing the child. I salute Sarah and Todd Palin for keeping theirs. I also admire their courage in standing by their pregnant 17-year-old daughter instead of encouraging her to cover up a potential electoral embarrassment with an abortion.

  13. Pingback: Gentle Wisdom » Would John Piper endorse anti-abortion Osama bin Laden?

  14. did a google search for Sarah Palin and complementarianism and came across this blog. Here are a few other thoughts to note.

    1) I would be VERY disappointed if John Piper uses this as an opportunity to judge this woman and the special position she’s been placed in at this exceptional crossroads in our country’s political history–especially considering the infanticidal Barack Obama we are up against.

    “Women were active in the religious life of Israel throughout the Old Testament, but generally they were not leaders–with a few exceptions. Women like Deborah (Jud. 4), however, clearly were the exception and not the rule. In fact, Isaiah 3:12 in its context of God’s judgment on unbelieving and disobedient Israel indicates that God allowed weak leaders, either masculine women or effeminate men, to rule as a part of His judgment on the sinning nation.” ~ John Macarthur

    Considering the fact that abortion is the among the greatest of our nation’s sins, I believe it is a an exceptional issue that calls for a unique female leader–a MOTHER, to stand up for life. A MAN can never be the face of the Pro-Life cause. (for obvious reasons)

  15. Peter,

    I think folks like Dobson are elated not so much because they endorse women in authority or they imagine that McCain will ask his VP what to do on abortion issues, but because it demonstrates their power.

    They have succeeded in getting McCain to bend to their will and cater to their single-issue focus. If they can make him do that now, I imagine, they believe they can do it again once he is in the White House.

  16. Peter, do you know anything about Feminists for Life? Most of them are what philosophers call difference feminists, as opposed to equality feminists. Equality feminists want women to have as much equality as possible with men. In its most extreme forms, it has led to a desire to abandon the sex distinction altogether, but standard equality feminism focuses on trying to achieve for women every little thing that might be true of men, all the while ignoring and trying to minimize what’s distinctive about women, in effect denying to women what they have achieved as mothers and caregivers out of the assumption that such achievements are inferior. Equality feminism is thus sexist against women.

    Difference feminists, on the other hand, affirm what is good about women even if those are things that have traditionally been labeled as undesirable by equality feminists. There is much less desire for men and women to be treated exactly the same, as long as women are affirmed as equally good, and as long as the distinctives of women are treated as at least as important as the distinctives of men.

    Complementarians have welcomed this very significant change in feminist thinking. Some egalitarians are difference feminists too. It’s not as if difference feminism requires accepting complementarianism. Most difference feminists would consider complementarianism the same way most egalitarians do, as thoroughly immoral. But the basic point of moving from equality feminism to difference feminism is something complementarians are on board with. Everything I know about Feminists for Life is that their arguments against abortion are squarely in the difference feminism tradition.

  17. For the record, I don’t think it’s fair to Piper to take him to see any of those roles as inappropriate. He speaks generally and lists some cases worth considering, but he very explicitly says that he’s not passing judgment on any of those roles. He also seems to see this as an issue of degrees of inappropriateness, where there are some situations where it’s a little bit unfortunate and others where it’s stretching the divine purpose to the breaking point. He also says that any of these might be problematic and only says that there are some roles (without saying any in that list are some of them) that are. So it’s definitely not fair to take him to be saying that it’s inappropriate for a woman to be president.

    But look at his fleshing out of what’s appropriate. It’s the direct command of a woman for a man to do something. There are different leadership styles, and what he encourages in women is a certain leadership style in positions of authority over men, which he explicitly allows in principle. “But she will affirm and receive and nurture the strength and leadership of men in some form in all her relationships with men. This is true even though she may find herself in roles that put some men in a subordinate role to her.” Why couldn’t this be done by a president to those immediately under her? In terms of personal relationships of employees, Piper doesn’t see a problem.

    Then there’s the issue of more general leadership over a whole country. But he doesn’t express any worries about that. He doesn’t think favoring a policy that affects men is an issue. It’s only direct commands. What about commander-in-chief, then? He doesn’t say, but it sounds more like the latter kind of case than the former. He does comment on women giving specific commands to men in field deployments and determining the detailed strategies that generals on the ground might do. He doesn’t comment on the decision to go to war in the first place or anything like that, the sort of thing a president might do.

    So I really think it’s going way beyond what he says to attribute to him the view that you’re putting in his mouth. He takes care to avoid expressing a view on any specific job, and his specific cases don’t seem to involve anything that a president necessarily must do in any serious way.

    So I don’t see any reason to think it hypocritical or inconsistent if he were to endorse a woman for vice-president or president. And that’s assuming that he does see this issue as an absolute that can never be outweighed by other concerns (which I doubt is true given his allowance of Deborah as an isolated incident given the circumstances).

  18. Jeremy, I think you need to give your little lesson on feminism to those complementarians who usually use “feminist” as a term of abuse.

    I understand that Piper is not pronouncing that all of the roles he lists are absolutely wrong for women. But surely if any secular authority roles are wrong for women, the most wrong of all must be the highest role of authority in the land, as President. On the other hand, if he is simply affirming that women should use a less commanding leadership style, I would agree, except perhaps in certain special circumstances like battlefields and emergency situations – and expect the same of men. But in this case what is wrong with a female pastor who relates to her congregation as any pastor should, in a non-commanding style?

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  20. A pastor is fine. Pastoring is a wonderful spiritual gift that requires no authority. Piper wouldn’t opposed female pastors, especially if they’re just pastoring women. An elder, on the other hand, inherently involves the kind of authority and teaching that he doesn’t accept. Maybe that’s what you meant. But I don’t see how his more general views on society apply in the church. He makes the same distinction more reasonable complementarians do between the explicit roles the Bible discusses and societal roles. He’s a little more worried about the secular roles than I think complementarians should be, and I think that’s very much unwarranted, but I think he sees the distinction and I think that’s why he sees them as much less of an absolute thing.

  21. Jeremy, what I meant by “pastor” was of course the typical US Protestant position in which the pastor, or a team of pastors, do most of the teaching in a church and have most of the authority. But are you sure Piper makes the distinctions you mention? The essay from which I took these extracts grounds his complementarianism clearly in creational gender differences which apply equally to secular and religious spheres.

  22. Pingback: Gentle Wisdom » There really are people who don’t allow women in secular authority

  23. Peter,
    Interesting post. I agree with you that there are significant problems for complementarians here. Al Mohler says he is only opposed to women’s leadership in the home and the church (as is the NT), and has a picture of Margaret Thatcher on his wall! But this is inconsistent with the way complementarians exegete 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Here, they argue, Paul is enunciating a universal principle of male leadership rooted in the creation story. If male leadership is a creation ordinance, then it must necessarily apply to all spheres of life, not merely to the home and to Christian churches. Piper understands this perfectly well; I’m not sure why Mohler doesn’t follow the logic of the argument. Complementarians could possibly countenance an exceptional Deborah (Elizabeth I, Margaret Thatcher), but not a woman who calls herself as a feminist and says she will shatter the glass ceiling into which Hillary Clinton has put 18 million holes!

  24. Thank you, Egalitarian, especially for the clarification of Mohler’s position. Yet Mohler has complained about mothers serving in the armed forces, which is in the secular sphere and closely analogous to the position Vice-President Palin would be in.

    Yes, Piper’s position is indeed more consistent, although to be really consistent he would have to come out explicitly against women bus drivers and Presidents.

  25. Wayne Leman has now posted about Sarah Palin, and his family connection with her, at Complegalitarian. This includes a link and quote to what David Kotter has written about Palin at the CBMW blog.

    Kotter notes that

    Women should not be held back from an office that is not strictly forbidden in the Bible.

    So, how about pastor or elder? Not “strictly forbidden in the Bible”, at most hinted at.

    So a female vice president, or even a female president, doesn’t necessarily pose a dilemma for complementarians.

    Well, his position makes sense, although it is clearly different from that of Piper, who is a CBMW council member. But I wonder if Kotter would have taken the same line if it was Obama who had chosen a woman running mate.

  26. The idea that John Piper discourages women from driving buses is completely misguided and a blatant red herring in this debate.

    Piper introduces the oft-referenced “bus driver” statement to demonstrate the point that a woman can express biblical femininity in the context of a variety of relationships and roles. He proceeds, then, to list a variety of positions where a woman might reasonably encounter men in a role subordinate to her own. The list ranges from “Bus driver and her passengers” all the way to “Prime Minister and her counselors and advisors.”

    If this was all that Piper said, the whole “Piper says women can’t drive buses” line would be utter slander. But Piper does tag on a qualification following the list, and it is this qualification that is grossly misunderstood by those who tout the “bus” line. (Slander? No. Misreading? Absolutely.) Piper qualifies: “One or more of these roles might stretch appropriate expressions of femininity beyond the breaking point.” The phrase “one or more” does not cover every item in the list, and certainly not the most modest item!

    Piper is simply clarifying that the list did not intend to make a decisive statement regarding which of these roles are ultimately in tune with God’s design for womanhood. There’s 575-page book to unpack those specifics—it’s called “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Woman,” and Piper’s only on page 50! The purpose of the list was ultimately to explain that women CAN participate in a variety of roles while maintaining a biblical femininity.

  27. “on social issues like health care and on Iraq”

    Notice how Palin in her speech at the RNC last evening avoided mention of these issues. And “feminists for life” usually are not feminists with respect to any other social issue.

  28. If male leadership is a creation ordinance, then it must necessarily apply to all spheres of life, not merely to the home and to Christian churches.

    But the creation order is only ever used to to relate to gender roles in the family and the churches. Therefore we do not have permission from scripture to extrapolate it into other spheres.

    I know that throws open the discussion about to what extent God ordains secular authority, but a common view of two institutions, the family and the church, with a common pattern, laid down in creation, is a consistent approach and does not relate to civil office.

    It seems those of an egalitarian persuasion are trying to show that the extrapolation exists and use it as a stick to beat complimentarians with, when in reality it is not a commonly held belief.

  29. Cliff, let’s forget the bus driver “red herring” for now. But if “The phrase “one or more” does not cover every item in the list, and certainly not the most modest item”, then am I to understand that it does cover the LEAST modest item, the one you list at the other end of the range, “Prime Minister and her counselors and advisors”? And surely President would be even less modest that Prime Minister? So, by your own argument, if Piper is saying anything at all in this passage, he is saying that women should not be Prime Minister or President.

    Blue, isn’t it part of the complementarian creation order argument to say that Adam was created to rule over the animals etc, as shown by naming them (Genesis 1:26,28, 2:19-20), and women only to assist him in this task? These are matters outside the family and the church. The arguments are of course fallacious because they ignore “male and female” in 1:27 and the meaning of `ezer kenegdo “suitable helper” in 2:20. This belief may not be a common one, but it is the logical implication of standard complementarian arguments, and some people e.g. Voddie Baucham and to some extent John Piper, do hold it.

  30. Peter, you keep forcing the word ‘might’ to mean ‘must’. Otherwise I can’t see how you get from Piper’s suggestion that one or more of those items might stretch it to the breaking point to your conclusion that he thinks the most authoritative elements do stretch it to the breaking point. That’s simply not going to do as good Piper exegesis.

    Besides, as I’ve already pointed out, your exegesis depends on assuming that he thinks the authority relation for church/family is exactly similar to the authority relation for secular roles, thus allowing for you to take the more serious kinds of authority as the ones that involve more people who are under you. But Piper may well make the same distinction more moderate complementarians make, between those two kinds of roles. He certainly thinks male authority ought to apply in both cases, which is different from the more moderate view (the one I happen to endorse). But that doesn’t mean he thinks authority in those contexts is equally important, and it doesn’t mean he thinks authority over more people is more serious rather than taking immediate commanding authority as more serious. Presidents don’t have immediate commanding authority over that many people. Pretty much it just includes the executive branch, and most of that is delegated, and the military, and most of that is delegated. So I just don’t think your argument works.

  31. Jeremy, as I wrote here, if Piper doesn’t believe that his “might” is at least in some of the cases he lists in fact a “must”, then it is irresponsible of him to write as he did, and thereby bring the contempt of the world on to the Christian church for a matter unrelated to the gospel.

    I agree that it is not completely clear that being a President is the extreme example as Cliff suggested. However, especially in time of war and other crisis a President is expected to lead the people directly, addressing them directly and authoritatively in these days on television. If this is an appropriate role for a woman, and as Piper argues the same principles apply in the secular sphere and in the church, that seriously undermines the argument that preaching to congregations is not appropriate for women.

  32. I see that Al Mohler has clarified, in the Washington Post and Newsweek no less, that he supports Sarah Palin standing for Vice President, and that “biblical complementarians can affirm that a woman can be President but not a pastor”, even though he “would be concerned about how she could balance these responsibilities and what this would mean for her family and her roles as wife and mother.”

  33. I was surprised to discover that Doug Wilson has given a defense of women in secular authority in relation to the Palin pick. I consider Wilson so conservative that I question his sanity sometimes, so it’s interesting to see him take a position that’s a little more moderate than the Grudem/Piper view. But I also want to reiterate that I think the actual Grudem/Piper view is more moderate than the view this post presents as their view, even if it’s still more conservative than Wilson’s view. On this issue Wilson is very close to my own view, although there are several things I disagreed with in his post.

  34. Jeremy, thanks for the interesting link. Of course I don’t agree with Wilson, but he comes close to saying it’s OK to be a woman in authority as long as you aren’t a (real) feminist, which he practically defines as being pro-abortion. Also I can’t help thinking that he wants McCain safely dead soon after the election.

  35. Pingback: The Sarah Palin and Complementarianism debate continues « Mustard Seed Kingdom

  36. Now Jim West has weighted in on this subject, very reasonably accusing fundamentalists, especially Southern Baptists, who endorse Sarah Palin of “backpedaling”. He writes:

    they smell power looming and will happily change their mind if it gains them some political pull.

    I won’t quote any more of this in case I get accused of agreeing with his rant, but it is certainly thought-provoking in the light of the way that these people go on about the authority of pastors etc over the church.

  37. Denny Burk has also written a post about this, and I think it makes some points more clearly than I’ve been doing. He also includes a quote from Grudem, one of the two authors of the Piper-Grudem chapter, that shows that he does not hold the view you’re attributing to Piper based on that chapter.

    “In the Old Testament, the civil government over the people of Israel was also the religious government over God’s people. . . Therefore we cannot assume that the general pattern of restricting civil government leadership over the people of God to men would also apply to the New Testament age, where the civil government is separate from the government of the church. The positive examples of women involved in civil leadership over nations other than Israel (such as Esther and the Queen of Sheba) should prevent us from arguing that it is wrong for women to hold a governing office.”

    He also points out that the Danvers Statement is very explicit in only applying complementarianism to leadership in the church and the home.

    While there are people who hold the view you attribute to Piper, most complementarians do not hold it. Apparently the CBMW will accept people who hold it and people who don’t. They won’t endorse it. And they’re one of the more extreme complementarian groups who chase away more moderate people like Carson and Blomberg who accept the TNIV and NLT gender translation philosophy as legitimate.

  38. See also this post on the same subject of whether it is consistent for women to lead nations but not churches, with quotes from various Christian leaders.

    For example, Brian McLaren writes:

    I just talked to a leading conservative religious leader about this the other day. He believes that the New Testament texts regarding women only apply to the church and not the secular world. I find that line of interpretation very convenient for conservative churches, and impossible to justify theologically.

    Richard Mouw writes:

    I personally am convinced that allowing women to serve as national leaders but not as congregational leaders is a hard viewpoint to defend.

    Al Mohler summarises the opposite viewpoint:

    Where the New Testament speaks, we are bound. Where it does not speak, believers are not bound.

    Well, fair enough, Al. This principle can certainly justify apparent inconsistencies, while undermining the attempts of Piper etc to base broader teachings on scriptural principles. But first you have to find out what is actually taught in the New Testament, based on a proper scholarly approach.

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