Don Quixote’s Vision

One thing my Spanish classes have taught me over the years was that Don Quijote saw things differently. He tilted with windmills, thinking they were giants. He thought of himself as a wandering knight performing valiant deeds. He believed Dulcinea to be a true lady who deserved his respect and devotion.

Complementarians tell me that if it’s one thing they hate, it’s how chivalry has all but disappeared. They would gladly treat all women like ladies – if only they deserved it! Methinks they doth not understand the nature of chivalry. Ancient knights understood the code of chivalry to mean that all ladies, without exception, should fall under their protection and be treated respectfully no matter their status. No knight worth his salt would brave all to rescue the daughter of his liege but sit out of the quest to save her hand-maiden should the need arise.

I remember watching Blast from the Past, where Brendan Frasier plays a young man who was raised with traditional beliefs and who ventures for the first time into the modern world. There was a conversation on manners, which is along the same lines as chivalry:

Eve: Or have perfect table manners!

Troy: You know, I asked him about that. He said, good manners are just a way of showing other people we have respect for them. See, I didn’t know that, I thought it was just a way of acting all superior. Oh and you know what else he told me?

Eve: What?

Troy: He thinks I’m a gentleman and you’re a lady.

Eve: [disgusted] Well, consider the source! I don’t even know what a lady is.

Troy: I know, I mean I thought a “gentleman” was somebody that owned horses. But it turns out, his short and simple definition of a lady or a gentleman is, someone who always tries to make sure the people around him or her are as comfortable as possible.

You see, if you respect people, then you treat them well. If you say something like: “I’d like to treat Jack and Jill better, but they don’t deserve it!” That just shows that the problem lies in your own bias. Jack and Jill have to meet your criteria in order to be treated well by you. I’m pretty sure the word for that isn’t chivalry or manners or respect or being polite.

You can’t be a gentleman or a lady if you don’t respect people enough to make them be comfortable. Believe me, people can tell when you treat them partially – when you give special treatment to some and the cold shoulder to others.

But this is a different world. One in which women sometimes hold the door open – would it kill you to say “thanks”? Being respectful of people isn’t tied to a particular era – we can’t all be errant knights hoping to complete heroic quests, we’re not all walking around as if the 1950’s or 1960’s are still current with the times. But that doesn’t mean that we should stop being respectful of others and stop being ladies and gentlemen – if not in the traditional sense, then in the modern one. No one should have to “deserve” being treated decently.

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26 thoughts on “Don Quixote’s Vision

  1. Being myself a complementarian because of my view of the Holy Bible as inerrant and infallible, I am inclined to say you bring up some very good points that ought well to be heeded. “Treat others as you would have them to treat you” are the words of Christ concerning manners and chivalry to the best of my recollection and they apply well here. Not that they will reciprocate, but that they may see an example of godly, Christianity. Excellent post and I find myself in agreement with the point that we cannot act differently concerning certain people because they are not right gentlemen or ladies, though I believe we would disagree on the issue of complementarianism itself. We must treat all with respect because all are made in the Imago Dei and because we ought to.

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    1. You might be surprised. While I do think that people sometimes complement each other – I don’t mean it in the way that “all men are leaders” and are complimented by the fact that “all women are to submit”. Humanity is just too interesting and complex to be narrowed down into such simplistic categories. If you don’t see how that’s so, spend a lot of time at convenience store and watch all the different sorts of people that come and go throughout the day. Humanity is just so many different shades and hues and ways that it’s really interesting to get into a conversation with the guys who don’t have an ounce of leadership capacity and the women who have it in spades and see how these teachings just miss out on such amazing people and all they have to offer.

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      1. Working in a grocery store, I know exactly what you mean. There are those of every shape and size. However, men are to be the spiritual headship of the home as Christ is the Headship of his Bride. This is also apparent in the writings of, you guessed it, Paul when he says that women are to submit to their husbands and husbands are to give them something worth submitting to. Not to devalue the woman in any way, but instead to show the couple how Christ loves his Bride.

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      2. As a single believer, that message tells me one of a few things: I’m not a fully-realized mature Christian until I marry and that I exist in a grey zone within Christianity. Paul affirmed singleness, but Christianity doesn’t know what to teach about “headship” to it’s singles. Do they say it’s a gender thing and give men greater authority over women? Or is it a status thing and only applicable to husbands and wives?

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      3. Again we find common ground! I am myself 17 and therefore very, very single. I do not mean to say that Christians are somehow immature because of their lack of spouse, merely that marriage is a beautiful portrait of Christ and his Church and therefore ought to be with masculine headship. Paul actually said that we should prefer not to wed so I definitely see where you are coming from there. To singles, the Bible tells us that we all should submit to our parents as guides in our lives and elders who are more mature in the faith than we.

        By the way, I find myself kicking myself for not having said this earlier in our discourse. I greatly appreciate this friendly debate and the ability you have shown to graciously disagree. Thank you and thank you again for that.

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      4. I inherited the tendency to be a devil’s advocate from my grandfather. When I see a room full of people who agree on one interpretation of Scripture, I investigate under the assumption that they may be incorrect. I try to nail down the roots of a teaching and understand where and why it goes wrong. Take the idea that a husband is the head of the wife – the same concept shows up in the Shepherding Movement; only more broad – everybody must be submitted to a human shepherd over them. The teaching was eventually abused – some shepherds demanded tithes from the sheep who were taught to submit to them, other sheep became incapable of making decisions without consulting their shepherd. Out of it, the question arose: “Who should a sheep submit to – his/her shepherd or Jesus when the two are in disagreement?” To which the understanding was that a person must always obey his/her shepherd because this pleases Jesus. In Complementarianism, I’ve heard the same teaching – that wives must submit to/obey their husbands even when their husbands are in disagreement with Jesus. Male Headship in Complementarianism can be abused. Bill Gothard’s ministry is largely responsible for taking the idea that husbands are the head of the wife and turning it into a “chain of command” or “umbrella of protection”. But Bill Gothard also abused dozens of women and had to step down from his ministry; which itself has come under fire – the Advanced Training Institute and the Institute in Basic Life Principles has created a generation of Christians whose understanding of Christianity tends toward legalistic interpretation. One paper I’ve seen talks about how women are responsible for their own abuse because they weren’t modest enough – that sort of thing.
        But it’s also what was taught in pro-slavery circles – that slaves are to submit to their masters whom Jesus had set over them for their own good. Some slaves were pro-slavery because they would get affirmation from their masters. But the abuse of slavery was just as rampant (if not more-so.) So what do we see? If somehow a hierarchy is in fact biblical, humanity has pretty much never been able to keep it successfully without abusing it. There is a degree that children submit to their parents, but a good parent knows when to relax their authority and let their children make decisions for themselves. This is something that doesn’t happen in the other forms of submission where a tendency to control and micromanage often emerge.
        I think that a hierarchy was instituted as a temporary solution to the problems believers faced centuries ago – as if it were stitches being used to help a wound heal. God meant for the stitches to be removed so that the wound could fully heal – but they were allowed to remain. They got infected and created an environment where all sorts of abuse can thrive – and all too often it does.

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      5. Well, as we see with the Roman church with the Crusades, all things can be abused, and indeed will be. But the law is not there for the lawbreaker. He does not care either way. It is there to keep the honest honest. The fact that humans mess everything up with their sinful, depraved natures is not a solid basis for denying the clear teachings of Scripture. The point is for us to strive for what Christ would have us to strive for and to discontinue ungodly practices. I do not mean that the man ought to micromanage anything but that he should be a gracious, caring, loving provider, protector, and prophet. That being fulfilled will make the woman see that submitting to such a person would not be a bad thing in the least. There will always be abusers of the system, look at food stamps for example, that does not mean that the system is flawed per se, merely that the ones under the system and who try and practice it are.

        The man ought to be good and godly, trying ever more to be conformed to the image of Christ. The woman ought to be willfully submissive to the man because the man cares for her and loves her as the “weaker vessel”- Paul’s words not mine. I abhor those that would cheat such a thing as much as you do. But that does not mean that we throw that system out, merely that those who abuse it should repent of their error and always turn to Christ, as in all things, prayerfully.Soli Deo Gloria!

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      6. When Paul used the phrase “weaker vessel”, he was talking in the context of believing husbands and unbelieving wives; not necessarily referring to believers – which points to a major flaw in headship theology, how does one have headship over an unbelieving spouse? What if the wife is the believer who is married to a man who is the unbeliever? It doesn’t seem to specify what to do in that situation. I find it hard to understand how God thought that the temple was exceedingly important and planned out every detail of who can and who can’t worship, under what conditions, what it’s all supposed to look like; and yet when it comes to this equally important teaching of male headship it’s one with as many holes as swiss cheese. The temple was a crystal clear teaching; one that God had abbrograted. Couldn’t the same be said of male headship which isn’t that clear of a teaching?

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      7. 1 Peter 3:1–2 (ESV)

        Wives and Husbands
        3 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

        My sincerest of apologies, I attributed the above phrase to the wrong Apostle. These are Peter’s thoughts on the issue. I think this passage, in context, answers all the questions you brought up just now.

        Again, I appreciate your gracious attitude in this debate. Far too rare is the gracious disagreement.

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      8. In context, we’re looking at one of the household codes – which was how Aristotle broke down the family unity – talking to Masters and Slaves, Fathers and children, and Husbands and their wives (always mentioning the most important person first; Scripture consistently reverses that – in effect, putting the first last and the last first – that’s Jesus’ upside-down and inside-out kingdom in action.) What we might not understand is that the family unit was subject to Roman laws about such things – and since Rome controlled the entire Mediterranean region – they had uncontested power over how families had to look from the outside. What Paul tells them basically undermines that structure from the inside out – carried to it’s most logical conclusion – it transforms a relationship from a hierarchy of a superior over a subordinate to co-captains at the same level.

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      9. So Peter and Paul somehow disagree with one another within the Canon of Scripture? Not only that, but you are trying to say that the Apostle who requested to be crucified upside down because of his reverence for the Lord would have bowed to the Roman authorities on so important an issue? Within the Canon?

        1 Peter 3:5–6 (ESV)
        5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

        That does not sound like Roman influence in any way.

        1 Corinthians 7:16 (ESV)
        16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

        This is the same concept Peter was conveying. Paul actually agrees with him here. He does not go into the detail of being submissive that Peter does but he is driving at the same matter.

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      10. Actually, in her language, Sarah called her husband ba’al – same as Baal – meaning Lord / Master / husband / owner. From whence our term mister comes from. The English doesn’t really capture the fact that Sarah called her husband Mr. – a term of respect. Abraham’s “headship” was questionable at best – instructing his wife to lie about their relationship on occasion so that he would benefit from her being placed in Pharaoh’s household. She also lived millennia before the Romans marched on Israel.
        In these passages, slaves and masters and husbands and wives are given the same instructions – we have moved beyond slavery. The point was that Paul reminded the masters that they too are to submit to their master, just as much as husbands are also to be submissive. Both on the same level – as submitees to their true head – Christ alone.

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      11. I think that it was more than a term of respect and it has lost its meaning through the ages. Also, Abraham instructed her to lie for her own protection in that environment.

        The fact that we have moved beyond slavery means that we no longer take the passage seriously? It somehow becomes irrelevant because slaves are not prominent? That does not follow.

        We are equals in the sight of the Lord and are both to submit wholly to him. That does not mean that our roles automatically sync. Aristotle himself recognized that men were more natural leaders. That is not to say that women are incapable of caring for themselves but this is the order God has established and God never changes. Masters were to submit to Christ as their slaves were to do the same. Does the master cease, then to be a master? Does he hold no authority anymore? If he does hold authority even still as a good headship, why can we not say that the husband is to do the same as that? If he does not, how can he cease to be the master?

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      12. Only Genesis 18:6-15 contains the only reference to Sarah referring to her husband as Lord – she wasn’t addressing him directly. So if either of us imagined Abe instructing Sarah to go do something and Sarah saying, “Yes, lord. I’ll go do it right away.” Then that’s the wrong picture we have of the story. Looking at all the accounts of the holy women of the past – aside from Sarah’s there’s a noticeable lack of submissive, behavior. It seems to me that Paul’s using a rhetoric technique to make a point – like using sarcasm.
        I did that the other day – I was talking about how peaceful and wonderful the news had been … something that would have been apparent to any customer buying the local newspaper with two different murder stories on the front page. If anyone had taken my words literally, they would have had a wrong understanding about what I actually meant.

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      13. So when Peter says “5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands,” he is being sarcastic?

        Even though he goes on to say
        1 Peter 3:7 (ESV)
        7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

        As if they are actually given charge over their wives? I have no idea where you are getting that from or how him saying such compares to murder.

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      14. I said rhetoric technique, not necessarily being sarcastic. When I began my study on how the believers would have been introduced to this text – I learned that it would have been read to them, the whole letter. The reader would be trained in knowing not just *what* to say, but *how* to say it so that the hearers would understand the text. We’re not just reading a letter written by one person to a church, but also a script meant to be spoken aloud. With the right facial gesture, spoken emphasis, a text that looks like one thing can be made to be another.

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      15. And you are assuming that the reader of this letter must have read it in a sarcastic tone and that determines the way we read it now? I find it quite fantastical that the meaning of the Bible must be determined by a person’s tone in reading it and not the words written therein themselves.

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      16. Sarcasm is a rhetorical technique, but not all rhetorical techniques involve sarcasm. Irony and metaphor are also examples of rhetoric as well. Our current culture is not well versed in rhetoric, but in the time of Jesus rhetoric was as ubiquitous as cell phones are to us. You have to remember that the literacy rate in Jesus’ day was not nearly comprable to our own. The text of Scripture had to written in such a way that it was easy to memorize and rhetoric has that advantage. Precious few believers in the early church would have been able to read the words for themselves.

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      17. So the reading of the words of the Apostle verbatim is just not enough? Metaphor is not dependant on the reader. Irony does not depend on reader either. Yet, you say that Peter would leave so serious a thing to understand up to the tone and facial expressions of the person reading? What if the person reading is a clown? What if he is a stoic? That holds no water.

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      18. Why is it so difficult to believe that’s how it worked? Isn’t that how sermons today work? A speech that’s delivered with rising and falling tones, rather than a flat mono-tone stream of words read aloud. Can you imagine Galatians 5:12 read without any emphasis? Same goes for 1 Corinthians 1:12. So much the better if a person is a clown – it’ll be far more memorable. Rhetoricians were trained in this art – they were probably stoic when needed and emotional when needed. Perhaps you need to hear it to understand the difference. Have you ever read “Casey at the Bat”? Read it and then listen to this recital and tell me if you think the speaker makes a difference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaz1LNMZnNw or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pox–_mP3U
        Now that’s what was going on behind the scenes in the whole New Testament.

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      19. The New Testament is not one long sermon and sermons’ meanings are not determined by tone. Tone is determined by tone. It is hard to believe because there is no possible way we could be certain about anything if it depends on the person reading. If that is the case then truth is relative and we have no reason to believe any of Scripture. After I preach, a transcript is more than sufficient for telling you what the sermon meant. That is why Spurgeon is still so effective even today. It has nothing to do with tone and everything to do with substance. God does not rely on “sizzle” when feeding us “steak.”

        I must say that you have been quite challenging to all of my mental faculties up to this point but I recuse myself from here. Thank you very kindly for the thinking you have made me engage in and the considerations you have given me. I have nothing for you but respect and applaud such intelligent defence of your beliefs. At this point, however, I think it best if we simply agree to disagree.

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      20. Interesting. As I recall, the reason why Johnathan Edwards was so popular was that he was great at delivering sermons – he brought ‘sizzle’ to the pulpit. Sounds like Spurgeon did, too: “Much of Spurgeon’s force in his doctrinal preaching came from the vividness with which he felt and expressed truths that so often become cold formulae to us.”
        It would really be something to listen to one of his sermons as he delivered it. It would be a whole different experience from when it was read.

        I do wish you well, and thanks for listening.

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      21. I wish well for you also and would like to add that Edwards was rather boring by all accounts in the pulpit. What he said made up for how he said it. Spurgeon had something about him however that made him capable of grabbing the hearts of his listeners like the barb on the end of a fishing hook. Thank you again and I hope that you will ever continue your studies.

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