Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: women

The empowerment of women

For as long as most people now alive can remember, abortion has been considered a means of empowering women. The inconvenience of an unexpected pregnancy can be quickly eliminated and the woman can carry on with life as she pleases.

But it is precisely the motherly trait of womankind that men stand in awe of, because we are not capable of it. We do not have the tenderness and warmth that draws a child to a motherly woman and makes that child want to please her. I am not speaking merely of the biological function of carrying a baby to birth and nourishing it, though both aspects are part of being a woman.

But when an unborn baby can be treated as some kind of horrible internal carbuncle to be removed and discarded, women also discard that motherly mystique. Abortion diminishes, rather than empowers, a woman.

Henceforth, a certain type of man regards a woman as merely a sex toy to be used at his whim and discarded with no regrets. The number of men of that type seems to have increased in proportion to the supposed empowerment of women.

All men are not savages. Most of us treat a woman with respect, no matter how she presents herself. Neither do we blame the victim when a scantily clad woman is sexually assaulted. Girls and women of our day live in an atmosphere where that type of dress is the only norm that they know. Those of us who are Christian men appreciate modesty in the appearance and bearing of our wives, sisters and daughters, but we believe all women are worthy of respect.

Some years ago, during Vacation Bible School, an emotionally troubled child fell and skinned his knee. He was in pain but wouldn’t let anyone touch him. One of the teachers, barely out of her teens, scooped him up, held him tight on her knees with one arm while cleaning and bandaging his knee with the other. It was over quickly and the boy hardly knew what had happened to him, except that now he felt better. I stood in awe of the young lady who seemed to instinctively have the right combination of firmness and tenderness to take charge of the situation.

That feminine aptitude is what empowers a woman. It will be apparent in whatever type of work she does, as long as she is at peace with her true nature.

Did King Solomon hate women?

Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account:
which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found. Ecclesiastes 7:27-28

This sounds like a pretty severe indictment of women, doesn’t it? Yet this is the same man who in another place wrote: “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22), and also:  “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:9).

How could the same man write with such negativity about women in one place, and with such fulsome approval in other places?

The only way that I can make any sense of this is to remember that the book of Ecclesiastes is the memoir of a man who had accomplished great things in his life, and now looking back sees the vanity of it all. Then he comes to counting up his wives and concubines, there were a thousand all told, he realizes that not one is a bosom companion that he can safely trust. Here too he has missed the mark.

The book of Ecclesiastes should be read as a lengthy confession and repentance, leading up to this realization: ” Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.  For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)..

A man looks at the Proverbs 31 woman

Perhaps it is foolhardy to attempt a fresh look at this ground that has been turned over many times by better men than I, yet I confess that I am not altogether convinced that they have found the true treasure hidden in this field. Parts of it have been unearthed and displayed for our edification in such a way as to appear unattainable by any mortal woman.

Let me say at the beginning that I believe that Lemuel is Solomon and that this chapter contains the teachings of his mother, Bathsheba. That is the ancient Jewish tradition and the modern attempts to find a better explanation are not convincing.

Verses 10 to 31 form a poem written in acrostic style where each sentence (verse) begins with succeeding letters of the Hebrew alphabet. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, thus 22 sentences in this poem. I will give my thoughts on four points in this the description of a virtuous woman.

First, this woman is a person in her own right. She is not the property of her father, her older brother or her husband, though no doubt each are important to her. Neither is she the servant of her children, though they are precious to her. She is not a person living her life in subservience to others, yet her life finds its meaning in her relationship to others. Her freedom, and the use she makes of it, is the most surprising aspect of this poem.

Secondly, though her family is the main focus of her life she is a leader, not a slave. There is nothing said about the meals she prepares but I would perceive her to be like the modern French woman who says “C’est moi qui décide.” “I am the one who decides what my children shall eat. They need nutritious and varied meals served at regular times and I wouldn’t dream of catering  to a desire for sugar laden snacks at all times of the day.”.

She knows that she is the teacher that her children will learn the most from and she does not waste the opportunities to teach them respect and kindness and the other important lessons of life. She enjoys watching her children play and have fun, all the time knowing that she has the authority to let them know when their fun is in danger of going too far.

She sees to it that her family has suitable clothing for all weather and all occasions. She makes the home a place of warmth and security.

Thirdly, she  contributes to the family income. She is described here as one who buys wool and flax, weaves them into cloth and garments to sell, then uses the proceeds to buy a field and plant a vineyard. This is a revolutionary concept. I believe that women in Canada did not have the legal standing to purchase property in their own name until about 100 years ago.

But note that none of her work takes place outside the family setting. Today we have gotten our priorities turned upside down. A woman who does not have a career outside the home is often made to feel that she is useless, a parasite on society. Go ahead and have children, our society says, but give them to the experts to raise. Well, the “experts” are not doing a good job of it. A mother is the true expert at raising her own children. To scorn the value of the things she does in the home to raise useful and productive members of society is entirely wrongheaded.

There are many things that a stay at home mother can do to contribute to the family income. Farm wives have always been an integral part of the farm workforce. The wives of small business owners contribute in many ways to the success of their husband’s business. Others have found ways to bring in income through home based businesses. There are many opportunities, but home and family are always the first priority of a virtuous woman.

Fourthly, she is known for her wisdom. “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” A wise husband will readily admit that he learns much from his wife. She often has sound advice in how to deal with difficult situations. She draws inspiration from the Word of God and applies it to life from a perspective that he would not otherwise see.

She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea she reacheth forth her hand to the needy.” This also is wisdom, the wisdom of compassion that is at times lacking in men. We live in a day of government programs to help the needy. They do much good, but no program can perceive a broken heart and give the personal touch of compassion that will help it heal.

What I see in these verses is not a list of requirements that a woman has to measure up to in order to be considered virtuous. They are rather a general description of the nature of a virtuous woman and a list of possibilities for her to explore.

The devaluation of women

Here in Canada the media has paid considerable attention to a sordid case where a well-known media personality was charged with sexual assault. The charges outlined incidents of kinky and violent sex involving several women. Unfortunately things unravelled at the trial. Emails and other evidence indicated that the women were willing participants and that their initial statements to police were not fully truthful and had omitted many details. The accused could not be found guilty on such untrustworthy evidence, even though most of what was described undoubtedly did happen.

Why would seemingly successful young women willingly subject themselves to such degrading experiences? A story from California helps to explain where this begins. It tells about young teen girls who post nude photos of themselves on Facebook. Many of them admit they find it degrading, but the social pressures are so enormous that they dare not refuse to participate. Such refusal would cause them to be rejected and ostracized by their friends.

It seems to me that this is how the devaluing of women begins in our society. Surely a girl, and a woman, is more than the sum of her body parts. She is a person worthy of respect, she has a brain, and is a soul of such value in the eyes of God that she is worthy of the death of His Son to redeem her.

But who is telling girls and women about this? The schools take no such responsibility. Many churches have veered off on causes that seemed more important, and thus these churches became irrelevant to the real needs of people.

Eventually though, the devaluation of women in our society points to a catastrophic failure of the home. Not all homes, thankfully, but so many that the behaviour I have described seems to many young girls to be the norm. (Boys and men are being devalued too, but I want to focus on the girls in this post.)

The well-being of our society depends on having parents who believe they have the ability, the freedom and the duty to provide a safe haven for their children.  A place where girls are respected as persons of value, where they can talk freely of their fears, their struggles and the pressures they face outside the home. Parents that do not push their children to get out there and compete for attention, but help them think through what is really important in life. Parents who encourage their children to be kind and caring toward others and to develop the abilities and qualities that will make them useful citizens.

I’m afraid that being a Christian does not automatically make us superior parents. It is good and right to teach our children to love God and to understand the way of salvation so that they may respond when the Spirit calls. It is good to teach honesty and sound moral principles. But all that is not enough. We need to be examples of all that we teach and above all we need to listen to our children with patience and sympathy and let them know that we love them no matter what happens to them.

Women and men

“A man once asked me … how I managed in my books to write such natural conversation between men when they were by themselves. Was I, by any chance, a member of a large, mixed family with a lot of male friends? I replied that, on the contrary, I was an only child and had practically never seen or spoken to any men of my own age till I was about twenty-five. “Well,” said the man, “I shouldn’t have expected a woman (meaning me) to have been able to make it so convincing.” I replied that I had coped with this difficult problem by making my men talk, as far as possible, like ordinary human beings. This aspect of the matter seemed to surprise the other speaker; he said no more, but took it away to chew it over. One of these days it may quite likely occur to him that women, as well as men, when left to themselves, talk very much like human beings also.”
― Dorothy L. Sayers, Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society

Wicked women of the Bible

One was a Canaanite woman who disguised herself as a prostitute to seduce her father-in-law. Another Canaanite woman was a prostitute. A Moabite woman crawled under the covers with a man while he was sleeping to hint that she wanted to marry him. The fourth was an Israelite woman who bathed on the roof of her house in full view of her neighbour.

What do these four women have in common? They are all named in the genealogy of Jesus. In fact, they are the only women mentioned in His genealogy.

Tamar, the first, was the widow of both of Judah’s two oldest sons. Judah promised her that she would marry his youngest son when he came of age, but did not keep his promise. Tamar then took matters into her own hands, playing the prostitute to Judah himself. When Judah was informed that his daughter-in-law was pregnant, he decreed that such a sin must be punished by death. However, when she informed him who was the father of the expected child, Judah was humbled and responded “She hath been more righteous than I.”

Rahab was the Canaanite prostitute who hid the Israelite spies who had come to search out the defences of Jericho. Because of this, she and her household were the only survivors of the destruction of Jericho. She married an Israelite – possibly one of the spies?

Ruth the Moabitess may have taken unusual measures to make her wishes known to Boaz, but he appeared to take her intentions kindly. He told her: “Blessed be thou of the LORD, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich.”

The Bible tells us nothing of Bathsheba’s thoughts when she bathed on the roof. Some commentators think that she was actually performing the ritual cleansing after the end of her menstrual period. If that be so, it could have appeared as an invitation to King David. He certainly seems to have taken it that way.

None of these women had the Bible we have today. The law had not been given at the time of Tamar, even later no one had access to a personal copy of the Scriptures. There was no weekly worship and instructional service during Old Testament times. None of this excuses their conduct. Yet God had mercy on them and they became known as godly women. When the elders blessed the marriage of Boaz and Ruth, they said “Let thy house be like the house of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah.”

Three of these women appear in the genealogy of David and the fourth, Bathsheba, was his wife and the mother of Solomon, the son whom God loved best of all the sons of David. Proverbs 31 begins: “The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.” No king by this name appears in any ancient record. The name signifies “for God” and the rabbinical commentators considered it another name for Solomon. We cannot be positive, but the only alternative is that Lemuel is a complete mystery. If Lemuel was indeed Solomon, then Proverbs 31 was written by Bathsheba.

Jesus, during His ministry, had a compassion for scorned and mistreated women that was unheard of in that day. The Pharisees were the true believers of Jesus’ day, in that they believed all the Scriptures taught and scrupulously observed all the commandments of the law. They often scorned Jesus for His friendship with sinners. His response? He told the Pharisees “The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.”

Do we have the same compassion toward the fallen and downtrodden that Jesus and the early church had? One of the primary reasons for the rapid growth of the early church was that the gospel offered hope and dignity to the outcasts of society. Have we forgotten this in our day?

It has been a great temptation for us as North American Christians to sit in our comfortable, middle-class pews and rejoice in God’s goodness, all the while averting our eyes from the misery around us. If we do see it, we console ourselves that all these people are going against better knowledge. Really? I am convinced that most people in North America today have no more understanding of God’s mercy and righteousness than Tamar and Rahab had at the beginning.

Her children arise up, and call her blessed

“I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness: and I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.  Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account: which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found” (Ecclesiastes 7:25-28).

What is Solomon talking about here?  Why does he appear to have so much hatred for women?

Ah, but remember that Solomon really had a thousand wives.  This sounds more like a confession than a diatribe against all womankind.  Counting his wives one by one up to a thousand, he realizes that he cannot fully trust even one of them.  They have led him astray.

Solomon sounds an altogether different note when he gives advice to other men: “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:9).  “Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth” (Proverbs 5:18).  It seems that now in his old age, Solomon looks back and regrets the day he took a second wife.  He had been happy with the wife of his youth, whatever possessed him to think that he would be happier with a second wife?  And a third, a fourth, all the way up to a thousand?

In another place, Solomon pronounces a blessing upon marriage: “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22).  These are not the words of a man who believed that women are inherently evil.  Solomon discovered, and demonstrated for our benefit if we will receive it, that multiple marriages do not multiply the blessing.  Having more than one wife had filled his family life with jealousy, intrigues and disappointment.

There is some mystery about the author of Proverbs 31.  The chapter begins: “The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.  What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?  Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.”

Who was king Lemuel?  Archeologists and historians have found no trace of a king by this name.  Lemuel means “devoted to God.”  The preponderant opinion of rabbinical commentators, and of Christian commentators, is that this points to Solomon himself.  The first nine verses of this chapter then are the instructions that Bathsheba gave to her son and that he remembered all his days and wrote down for our instruction.

“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.  The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.  She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:10-12).  It is not altogether clear if verses 10 to 31 are a continuation of Bathsheba’s teaching, or an addition by Solomon himself.  In any case, it was Solomon who compiled the Book of Proverbs and decided to close the book with a paean to godly women.

“Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.  Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.  Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.  Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31:28-31).

Mother’s Day is a day set apart for children and husbands to arise and bless and praise the mothers in our families.  I trust this is not the only day that we do this.

Evidences of the Resurrection

People despise Christian faith.  They hate it, and are afraid that it may be true. – Blaise Pascal

Unbelievers say that the disciples stole Jesus’ body and lied about the resurrection to save face.  How believable is that?  How long would the disciples have kept up that fiction, if it was a fiction, when they were being hunted down and killed for their testimony?  All the arguments against the historical reality of the Resurrection bear that same taint of desperately wanting not to believe.

The gospels are reliable historical documents.  Sceptics do not dispute the existence of the people and places mentioned, or the time in which the recorded events occurred.  The existence of four gospels is also persuasive evidence that the writers are describing historical facts.  There are enough differences in the details recorded by each writer to eliminate the possibility that they simply copied from each other.  Yet the similarities are so striking that it is evident that they are each describing something that really happened.

Each gospel writer states that a woman, or a group of women, was the first person to arrive at the tomb on the first day of the week.  John mentions only Mary Magdalene, Mark mentions Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, Matthew mentions Mary Magdalen and “the other Mary”, Luke mentions Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and “other women”.  There is no disagreement here, simply each one writing the facts that were known to him.

This is strong evidence that they were telling the truth.  In that era, and for most of history since then, the testimony of a woman was not deemed worthy of belief, they could not testify in court.  If the writers were making up a story about the resurrection, they would not have placed women at the tomb before any man.  Writers of that era had no way of knowing that two thousand years later no one would consider it remarkable that women were the first witnesses.

The empty tomb was a huge scandal for both the Roman authorities and the Jewish leaders.  They were aware that Jesus had said He would rise again.  They would have spared no effort to find His body.  The fact that it was not found is strong evidence that there was no body to be found.  He had indeed risen.

In 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, the apostle Paul lists the many persons to whom Jesus appeared after the resurrection, the majority of whom were still alive at the time he wrote.  Despite enormous persecution, there is no evidence that any of those witnesses ever denied that they had seen the risen Lord.

The most compelling evidence is the transformation of the disciples.  All fled when Jesus was arrested.  Peter denied his Lord three times.  The disciples on the road to Emmaus felt like it was all over.  Yet a few years later it is said that they have turned the world upside down (Acts 17:5).

Can there be any other explanation but that these discouraged and demoralized disciples actually met their risen Lord?  That He would meet with them in a locked room without opening the door, yet broke bread with them, cooked fish for them and ate with them?  That He showed them the wounds in his hands, his feet, his side and invited them to touch Him?  That he gave them a commission, telling them “All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth.”  And they believed Him.

How can a woman be safe?

A few days ago, the police in Toronto issued a warning to the public about a series of sex assaults that have occurred in the downtown area.  In response, Krista Ford, 21 years old, posted the following note on her Twitter account: “Stay alert, walk tall, carry mace, take self-defence classes & don’t dress like a whore.”

Ordinarily such a comment would have been read by a few friends and nothing more would have come of it.  But Krista Ford is the niece of Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, whom the “progressive” media are intent on destroying.  The hounds were loosed and such a hue and cry was raised that two days later Krista Ford deleted the offending comment from her Twitter account and posted this apology: “I didn’t mean to cause such an alarm and I apologize if I did. I just want women to be safe.”

Columnist Barbara Kay, writing in the National Post, seems to have a realistic grasp of what this is all about:  “Dressing like a slut – and nobody has to define it; we know it when we see it – may have started as an ironic fashion trend, the same as ripped jeans, but it has now become an activist costume, and strutting one’s sexual charms in a mimicry of prostitutes’ behaviour an act of political theatre.”

The only reason that I am commenting on this news is that it reminded me of a remark I heard many years ago.  Brenda Day had gone through the mill herself in her younger years, but she had survived, become a Christian and married a kind and supportive husband.  When we knew her twenty years ago, she was director of a street mission in downtown London, Ontario.  Through her work there, she and her husband had taken into their home a teenage girl who wanted to make a clean break from her former life and become a Christian.

One day this young lady complained to Brenda that she didn’t like it that young men of a certain type were paying so much attention to her.  Brenda told her, “The clothes you wear are advertising to those young men that you would welcome their attention.  If you don’t want attention from that kind of men, you need to change the way you advertise yourself.”

I guess it’s not socially acceptable to be that blunt today.  But why not?  This is not a question of blaming the victim.  It is simply a question of not playing with fire.

Early Christianity had a powerful attraction for women in the Greek and Roman world.  For the first time, they heard that they were persons of equal value to men in the sight of God.  Christianity lifted women out of the brutal oppression and degradation that they had lived in up to that time.  It seems that the efforts of those who want to “liberate” women today are having the perverse effect of returning women to that former degraded state.  Jesus Christ is still the only answer.

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