Intimate Allies (pt. 5): A Message I Don’t Approve

In the season of platform messages and political adds, I feel that it is important to assert that I approved of the first four messages that Tremper Longman and Dan Allender present in their book Intimate AlliesTheir emphasis on spiritual warfare and the kingdom of God, evangelism and discipleship, as well as biblical theology to undergird our understanding of marriage is very helpful.  However, there is a message in their book with which I do not agree, and which is, I believe, fundamentally opposed to biblical marriages, biblical discipleship, and spiritual warfare.  It is the culturally accepted notion of feminism and the ecclesial/anthropological matter of egalitarianism as it pertains to the roles of men and women.  (For an outline of the issues see The Danvers Statement).

Without so much as a definition, an argument, or an admission of an egalitarian agenda, Longman and Allender presuppose and assume that an egalitarian reading of the Bible is normative for the evangelical Christian.  (For an opposing view, to which I wholeheartedly subscribe, see The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood).  Concerning the Genesis command to fill the earth and subdue it, they write:

In marriage, we are both kings and queens who rule by ordering creation to enhance the glory and pleasure of each other.  We are to rule through sacrificing on behalf of one another (86).

At this point, I am in total agreement.  However, in there next supporting paragraph they deny any kind of intended order in the creation of man and woman.  They continue:

Further, we must recognize that the job description is given equally to men and women.  At this point, God makes no distinction about who is to do what.  Women are not the slaves or servants of men; men are not the slaves of servants of women.  Men and women together fill, subdue, and rule over all of creation (86).

By failing to cite a biblical reference, include a footnote, or make an argument for the assertion, “At this point, God makes no distinction about who is to do what,” they disregard biblical testimony to the contrary (cf. 1 Tim. 2; 1 Cor. 11, see Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood for biblical corpus of articles that examine and exegete the relevant passage in Scripture ) and contemporary scholarship that argues for gender complementarity.  Instead, they casually assert their culturally sympathetic appeal and assume it will not cause any problems  This is not an isolated incident either.  In a later chapter, once again discussing the account in Genesis 2, they argue:

Once again, this passage [Gen. 2] is misread if either Adam’s statement of Eve’s derivative creation is understood to mean that the woman is subordinate to the man.  The man is not in any way better, superior, or closer to God than the woman is.  Indeed, the passage could not be clearer: the man needs the woman as much as the woman needs the man (216).

Though I disagree with their conclusion, in this instance Longman and Allender make an argument for egalitarianism, instead of propounding an assumption.  Their argument is feminist reasoning that supposes that worth in the eyes of God is dependent on hierarchy or perceived status.  For instance, a CEO is more valuable than his secretary.  In other words, if men and women cannot assume all the same functions within the home and the church, then they clearly cannot be equal.  They fail to take into consideration that God himself is equal in the Godhead and yet with distinctive roles (see Bruce Ware’s book Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationship, Roles, and Relevance). 

Moreover, their argument makes a semantic range fallacy.  They speak of authority (i.e. “subordination) and then proceed to define it in terms of worth or significance (i.e. “better, superior, or closer to God”), when in fact the ordered world illustrates all the time that hierarchy and worth are distinctive spheres of meaning.  A sergeant in the army and a luitenant in the army have different degrees of authority, but the same ontological value; parents and children, in the eyes of God, have distinctive roles of authority and accountability, but both are equally loved by their Father in Heaven; and employers and employees have unique roles, but the same intrinsic value.  To disregard or expunge these roles is to move towards anarchy. 

Longman and Allender disregard these cosmic structures, just as they reinterpret biblical passages that clearly teach that men and women are equal, yet different (see Alexander Strauch’s helpful book by that same title, Men and Women: Equal Yet Different).  After explaining their understandings of Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3, Longman and Allender summarize on page 191:

We have already pointed out that this commmand [“wives submit to your husband as unto the Lord,” Eph. 5:22] must be understood in the light of the mutual submission commanded by Paul in Ephesians 5:21.  We have also seen that Peter urged men to a submissive attitude toward their wives when he told them to “be considerate” toward them (1 Pet. 3:7). 

Here again, Longman and Allender are twisting meaning and common sense.  When you go to the doctor, you want him to be “considerate” but you don’t want your visitation to be a collaborative effort!  If in consideration for your feelings, he asked you to take the lead on your colonoscopy, you wouldn’t stay with his practice long.  You expect, and for good reason, that he or she be an authority in medicine.  Your responsibility is to submit, even if it is a woman!  (This hierarchy structure is different than that of the home or church). 

Or, to give another example, this time from Scripture, Jesus is the kind and compassionate head of the body, but this does not undermine his absolute authority.  The analogy of head and body only works because the healthy human body is controlled by the head.  When limbs, under their own initiative begin to lead, something is wrong.  Therefore, consideration and submission are not synonymous, as Longman and Allender suppose.

Throughout their otherwise faithful book these explicit egalitarian appeals arise.  They are exegetically reinforced in Chapter 11, “Submitting to One Another in Love,” and they are seen at work in at least two personal testimonies that portray their wives as spiritual co-leaders in the home (38, 52).  In short, while helpfully setting marriage in its discipling and warfare locus in the kingdom of God, they weaken their kingdom-worldview by denying God’s gender roles.

So overall, I commend the four aspects of the book I previously considered (Warfare, Evangelism, Discipleship, and Biblical Theology), but I do not commend their egalitarian agenda.  Intimate Allies is a book I would recommend to well-read Christians who want to see how their marriage fits into God’s eternal strategy of the Great Commission and spiritual warfare, but it is not a book I would ever use for (pre)marital counseling or that I would commend carte blanche.  There are too many other good books out there that are more faithful to God’s Word.  Finally, I am tremendously appreciative of Tremper Longman’s work, I look to him as an expert in OT and Biblical Theology, but in this instance, I cannot universally commend Intimate Allies.

My name is David Schrock, and I approved this message.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

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