The result that the Danvers Statement wants to create, is to make us believe in “Biblical manhood and womanhood” – the idea that certain things are male roles and others are female roles. So, when evaluating the Danvers statement, I kept this question central: Is this a good reason for Biblical manhood and womanhood? What gender roles does it give that Christian men should be and do but not women, or vice versa? (Biblical Manhood and Womanhood will be called BMaW from this point onwards. The words of the Danvers Statement will be rendered in red, mine in black.)
Core Beliefs: The Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
We have been moved in our purpose by the following contemporary developments which we observe with deep concern:
Please note how many of the reasons that will follow are simply claims that things are worse because people disagree with them. For example, claiming they are moved by sexual immorality implies sexual immorality will become worse if people do not believe like them. They give no evidence for their claims, and Christians who disagree with them also believe in sexually pure living. This is called poisoning the well: Saying bad things about the opposition before the opposition are heard, so that people will be less apt to listen to the opposition’s view.
1. The widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity;
In other words, “We are defending BMaW because people are confused about BMaW.” But they did not prove BMaW yet.
This is begging the question: As a rationale to prove the necessity of BMaW for Christians, they say people are confused/ uncertain about BMaW.
2. the tragic effects of this confusion in unravelling the fabric of marriage woven by God out of the beautiful and diverse strands of manhood and womanhood;
The implication here is that only those who define manhood and womanhood their way have marriages not unravelling “the beautiful and diverse strands of manhood and womanhood.”
Once again, it begs the question: You need to see BMaW their way to believe that other ways of seeing manhood and womanhood are unravelling strands that should be there.
3. the increasing promotion given to feminist egalitarianism with accompanying distortions or neglect of the glad harmony portrayed in Scripture between the loving, humble leadership of redeemed husbands and the intelligent, willing support of that leadership by redeemed wives;
They defend their view because an opposite view, they say, distort good practices in marriage. This is still begging the question, not a rationale for their view.
Also, this is not a statement about BMaW in its totality (God-given gender roles for all men and women), but merely about very limited forms of husbandly lead, a much more modest claim. If a Christian woman should support redeemed husbands when the leadership is loving and humble, and should do so intelligently (not following any stupid idea of his, among others), the scope of submission and leadership becomes small even between husband and wife.
4. the widespread ambivalence regarding the values of motherhood, vocational homemaking, and the many ministries historically performed by women;
In other words “We are defending BMaW because people are confused about the value of motherhood, vocational homemaking, and the many ministries traditionally performed by women.” In that case, we hope a defence of the value of these things will follow. Until these things are defended, I cannot assume me, you, or society at large, is wrong about their value. To say, without evidence, that we do not value them highly enough is to poison the well.
5. the growing claims of legitimacy for sexual relationships which have Biblically and historically been considered illicit or perverse, and the increase in pornographic portrayal of human sexuality;
This is poisoning the well again: Not thinking like CBMW does not mean accepting illicit sexual relationships. In reality, much literature say that Aids is most prevalent in countries where women are regarded as supposed to submit to men, where they have little power to say no. And there is much more pornography, say the experts, with female submission and male dominance than the opposite. In fact, I could easily poison the well in the opposite way, saying female submission and the male desire for dominance leads to AIDS, illicit sex and pornography.
6. the upsurge of physical and emotional abuse in the family;
Families where the couples uphold hierarchical gender roles actually have more abuse. This is a particularly ugly example of poisoning the well – accusing your opponents of causing what they very clearly oppose. And submissive women are less likely, in my experience, to protect children against abuse by fathers.)
7. the emergence of roles for men and women in church leadership that do not conform to Biblical teaching but backfire in the crippling of Biblically faithful witness;
“We defend BMaW in church, because people are living contrary to BMaW in church” still begging the question. Their statement should now also defend “roles for men … in church leadership that do not conform to Biblical teaching.” What roles should men not have in church leadership, which men currently occupy?
8. the increasing prevalence and acceptance of hermeneutical oddities devised to reinterpret apparently plain meanings of Biblical texts;
“We defend BMaW because opponents of BMaW twist the Bible” could be legitimate, when you can prove BMaW from the Bible without twisting it or ignoring bits you dislike. In later parts of the review we will see if they can defend BMaW without twisting the Bible.
9. the consequent threat to Biblical authority as the clarity of Scripture is jeopardized and the accessibility of its meaning to ordinary people is withdrawn into the restricted realm of technical ingenuity;
“We defend BMaW because BMaW is the clear understanding of scripture, the meaning accessible to any reader.” That is a legitimate reason if true, but now they need verses that clearly state BMaW gender roles for all men, and all women. If their interpretation is “technical ingenuity,” it would not do – by their own reasons for supporting BMaW.
10. and behind all this the apparent accommodation of some within the church to the spirit of the age at the expense of winsome, radical Biblical authenticity which in the power of the Holy Spirit may reform rather than reflect our ailing culture.
“We defend BMaW because it is winsome, Biblically authentic and against the spirit of the age.” Now the Danvers makers also need to prove to us that BMaW is winsome. They already have to prove it is Biblically authentic.
As for being against the spirit of the age – any age got a mixture of both good and bad things. There were, for example, ages which believed in leaving children with wet nurses for the first few years, and ages which believed in motherly nurture. There were ages which did and did not believe in slavery. Should we support slavery in this age to be against the spirit of the age, or have supported wet nurses in an age of motherly care? That will also be “against the spirit of the age.” I don’t care one whit whether I go against or with the spirit of my age – I care if what I do is right, if it shows Christian charity, and is just towards everyone. When a certain right activity goes with the spirit of this age – I want to go with the spirit of the age. When an activity that is right goes against the spirit of the age, I want to be against it too.
My conclusion, from the rationale:
Up until here, they repeated mostly two ideas in different words:
1) People don’t live this way/ don’t understand it the way we do, therefore we affirm BMaW. I will call this kind of argument smoke – foggy talk that does not really add any value to the topic.
This is redundant. It goes without saying. Whether you ask people to wear sunscreen against skin cancer, buy from your bakery, or accept “Biblical” Manhood and Womanhood, people promote their messages in order to explain them to those who do not understand (yet), or to sway the minds of those who think differently.
2) When people do not live our way, all kinds of evil (immorality, family violence, etc.) is the result. I notice they never proved that things actually go bad when people do not live the “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” way.
All in all, the rationale is mostly smoke (it takes up a lot of space and make those with a sensitive constitution cough, but it has no real substance) and mirrors (the same thing – for example that society will be worse off by not following their way – repeated in other words, to give the illusion that they say something new about their view). Next time, we will see if the actual affirmations, with their textual back-up, provide something more substantial.