So Much More, p. 33-51 – Part 2: The Virgin Bureaucracy

“A&E” refers to Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, authors of So Much More. I chose the abbreviation to save space and time.

As I suggested last time, chapter 4 of So Much More is a very important one. Not only do A&E lay out the precise rules of their gender bureaucracy for all to see, they also come out and say exactly what we’ve all known and/or suspected for years, in no uncertain terms: fathers stand in the place of, and are the nearest earthly equivalent to, God, in relation to their daughters.

In addition to being able, as we mentioned earlier, to annul his daughter’s vow, a father has the authority to guide his daughter concerning marriage (1 Corinthians 7:36-38). God has placed our fathers in a position of authority over us, and to disobey them is to disobey God, unless the two come in direct conflict with one another. A father does not have the authority to make his daughter commit sin, because his authority is limited – he can’t overrule God’s commands or usurp God’s authority. A daughter has a duty to disobey her father in such circumstances.

I really don’t think this needs much comment, seeing as it’s pretty much par for the course at this point. A&E have previously claimed that fathers are God’s earthly representatives and that daughters can (essentially) blaspheme their names. It’s also been claimed by some that in 2008, they taught at a homeschool convention that women could not be saved without a male head. So to a longtime observer of patriocentrists, the above won’t come as much of a surprise. It is, however, a good passage to show any skeptical friends you might have who still think you’re overreacting to patriarchy, because really, nobody could be that extreme, right?

(I also recommend this recent post at Spiritual Sounding Board, which explores whether, within patriocentricity, fathers have more authority than mothers in the arena of child training. Some patriocentrists really do say yes. So my question for A&E is, if disobeying your father is equivalent to disobeying God, what about disobeying your mother?)

Notice that, at the beginning of this passage, A&E finally cite a Bible verse that is not Ephesians 5. They also previously cited Numbers 30, which I’ll quote here in its entirety.

Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which the Lord has commanded: if a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.

Or if a woman makes a vow to the Lord, and binds herself by some agreement while in her father’s house in her youth, and her father hears her vow and the agreement by which she has bound herself, and her father holds his peace, then all her vows shall stand, and every agreement with which she has bound herself shall stand. But if her father overrules her on the day that he hears, then none of her vows nor her agreements by which she has bound herself shall stand; and the Lord will release her, because her father overruled her.

If indeed she takes a husband, while bound by her vows or by a rash utterance from her lips by which she bound herself, and her husband hears it, and makes no response to her on the day that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her agreements by which she bound herself shall stand. But if her husband overrules her on the day that he hears it, he shall make void her vow which she took and what she uttered with her lips, by which she bound herself, and the Lord will release her.

Also any vow of a widow or a divorced woman, by which she has bound herself, shall stand against her.

If she vowed in her husband’s house, or bound herself by an agreement with an oath, and her husband heard it, and made no response to her and did not overrule her, then all her vows shall stand, and every agreement by which she bound herself shall stand. But if her husband truly made them void on the day he heard them, then whatever proceeded from her lips concerning her vows or concerning the agreement binding her, it shall not stand; her husband has made them void, and the Lord will release her. Every vow and every binding oath to afflict her soul, her husband may confirm it, or her husband may make it void. Now if her husband makes no response whatever to her from day to day, then he confirms all her vows or all the agreements that bind her; he confirms them, because he made no response to her on the day that he heard them. But if he does make them void after he has heard them, then he shall bear her guilt.”

These are the statutes which the Lord commanded Moses, between a man and his wife, and between a father and his daughter in her youth in her father’s house.

Notice that this is a technical legal passage deep in the inner workings of the Mosaic law. The Mosaic legal system is no longer in place, and as far as I know, nothing addressed in this passage is ever brought up again anywhere in the entire Bible. (Some Christians even interpret Jesus as having forbidden any kind of oath-taking at all, which, if correct, might nullify Numbers 30 entirely.) So I see no compelling evidence that anything in Numbers 30 applies to Christians under the New Covenant. In fact, the only way I can see that someone could still think Numbers 30 applies today, is if they read it through a theonomic and Re-constructionist lens that’s already inclined to reinstate the Mosaic law in its entirety. So I suspect A&E’s reading of this passage has more to do with their view of the law, than it does with their views on gender relations. (See also Cindy Kunsman’s informative post about Numbers 30.)

Moving on to 1 Corinthians 7:36-38:

But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do as he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry. Nevertheless he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well. So then he who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better.

There are three things in play here, two of which may not be immediately obvious on the surface. The first, and biggest, one is best explained by looking at how this verse reads in some other translations (the citation above is from the New King James, Scarlet Letters’ usual translation).

If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry – it is no sin. But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better. (ESV)

But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomely toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry. But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well. So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better. (NASB)

As you can see, the meaning of 1 Cor. 7:36-38 changes completely depending on whether the word parthenos is translated as “virgin” (as in a betrothed woman) or “virgin daughter.” If we go with the former, then the passage is referring to engaged couples choosing not to marry (in this case because of an intense persecution situation, as suggested by v. 26). If we go with the latter, then the passage is talking about a father who is not allowing his daughter to marry (probably because of the same situation). So A&E have pinned an enormously important part of their father-as-God’s-representative doctrine – a father’s divine right to control his daughter’s courtship process – almost entirely on a disputed translation. Sounds rock solid to me. (This page gives a useful summary of the debate from NET translation notes.)

(As an aside, I was peripherally aware of this translation issue even as a young person. Some Bibles I read would use “virgin,” and others “virgin daughter,” and I realized even around age 12 or so that it drastically altered the meaning and intended audience of the passage. It confused me then; thankfully I’m now older and can better understand some the relevant issues.)

The other two issues with A&E’s citation of 1 Cor. 7, make me wonder why on earth they cited this verse in the first place, because taken in context, it is extremely damning to their “marriage-and-family-centric” view of women’s lives. First, Paul opens his advice to the unmarried in v. 25, with this statement:

Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy.

Did you hear that, A&E? Paul’s advice in this section is just that – advice. Not commands, advice (albeit from a wise and gifted leader in the community). In other words, let’s just say it’s not beyond possibility that Paul could be distinctly uncomfortable with you wringing an absolute doctrine of courtship and father-rule out of this verse.

More importantly, if Paul was going to elevate his advice and opinion to the doctrinal level, 1 Cor. 7 indicates that he almost certainly would not go in a direction A&E would like. A great deal of 1 Cor. 7 is Paul extolling the virtues, not of marriage, but of singleness. As I addressed previously in the Big Box, Doug Phillips tried to get around this by claiming that Paul was speaking only in context of persecution. But reading the entire passage, it’s clear that many of Paul’s approving statements about singleness are universal and not contextual (see esp. v. 1-9). So I have to conclude that A&E, like their fellow patriocentrists, have either failed to deal with Paul on this point, or have correctly understood that he upsets their marriage-is-normative applecart and are thus trying as hard as they can to ignore him.

The next part of chapter 4 is mostly devoted to illustrating facets of the stay-at-home daughterhood (SAHD) lifestyle through the words of young women who practice it. (Or at least did at the time So Much More was written. Since that was in 2005, it would be interesting to follow up with these young women today.) Featured in chapter 4 are Rebekah, Amber, Hannah, Ruth and Kelly, whose biographies appeared in chapter 1:

Rebekah greatly disliked being a girl. She was at times angry and bitter toward God for not making her a boy. She consoled herself by indulging in every boyish pursuit she could and gloated over anything that she thought made her superior to boys. She tried to be “tough” and “strong,” resenting any male assistance or courtesy that she considered patronizing or insulting. When she repented of her anger, rebellion, and bitterness toward a loving heavenly Father, she became willing to learn what God wanted to say about women. Now Rebekah can truly say, “While pursuing femininity, I have found more strength, especially in character, than I ever did in pursuing feminism.”

Amber worried about her life’s purpose. As her high school graduation neared, many doors of opportunity opened up for her, but she knew none of them was a cause worth giving her life for. After years of seeking God’s design for single young women, she and her father finally found it. …

Hannah never wanted to go off to college or to enter the corporate world. But her father gave her no other direction for her life after graduation, and in her heart she began to resent him for this. As a result, she did not truly honor her father, who did not fully have her heart. When the Lord revealed to her father His plan for daughters, He also revealed to Hannah the bitterness that had begun to grow in her heart against her father. By His grace, He turned their hearts toward each other, giving Hannah contentment and trust in her father’s guidance, provision, and protection. …

Ruth was brought up in a Christian home and was consistently taught Ephesians 6:1-3 which says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” However, like all girls Ruth has struggled with honor and obedience. Though she loved her parents, she realized she could be honoring them and serving them more than she was. She has now put her heart into delighting them and making their lives comfortable, and she shares many of the things she has learned in her journey. …

Kelly, the oldest of four children, never understood just how influential a sister’s life is to younger siblings. Not having embraced God’s design for sisters, she wasn’t fulfilling her role of encourager, mentor, and friend. Kelly began to find more joy and fulfillment for her life when she asked herself the questions: “How would God’s Word define the role of older sister?” and “What does God ask of a daughter and sister?” From those questions she began a journey to understand, through the sufficiency of Scripture, what the Lord has prepared for her to do.

Taken together, the things these young women say in chapter 4 reveal an extremely dangerous, controlling and emotionally unhealthy view of father-daughter relationships. In fact, it is so abusive that I feel the only way to properly cover the many ways SAHD promotes and enables abuse, is to give the topic at least one post all to itself. So consider this an appetizer for the next installment of chapter 4. Things are about to get crazy.

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