I Sensed a Little Dig at the Endorsers by Mark Jones...
October 3, 2019
Mark Jones doesn’t really have anything good to say about Rachel Miller’s book Beyond Authority and Submission in his review posted on Mere Orthodoxy. In the end, he seems perplexed that well-respected people have endorsed it. Since I am one of those endorsers, I thought I’d respond. There will be a forthcoming response from another endorser as well.
However, given the review is over 2,000 words, with each short paragraph adding another whack, it would take a very long response to answer each one properly. Constructive critique is always good for an author, and I guess for endorsers as well, as anyone’s work can be improved upon. But this review does leave me scratching my head trying to parse what may be constructive and what looks to be a bit of feather puffing for the reader to see Mark’s academic superiority, making arguments beyond the scope of her book. As Mark is perplexed as to why Rachel didn’t get into theological anthropology or doesn’t address certain passages, so too I am perplexed that he doesn't really even engage with the main thrust of her book, as if it may all be dismissed by her inferiority. In fact, he uses the title of her book as an insult, as if the whole idea of looking at the relationship of men and women beyond the categories of authority and submission is an ontological error that is in opposition to all of church history. And so I thought I would briefly address that, and connected with it, Mark’s reduction of the glory of the woman. (I have decided to address them both on a first name basis, as I correspond with both Mark and Rachel and it just feels more natural.)
Rachel’s book examines whether some of the ideas in the contemporary complementarian movement about the nature of men and women and our relationships in the home, church, and society are biblical traditions that have been faithfully handed down or are ones the church has picked up from the Greeks, Romans, and Victorians. Mark, who accuses Rachel of misrepresenting others’ writings, misrepresents her first thesis by saying it is “to remove authority-submission from as many realms as possible, especially if it involves male authority.” I’m not sure why he does that.
It seems that both Mark and Rachel agree that we can all lob a bunch of quotes from early church history that teach an inferiority of the woman to man. Of course, it’s not that straightforward, as these teachers can be pretty frustrating with how inconsistent some of their material is with their other teachings. For example, Augustine, who said, "’If God had wanted Adam to have a partner in scintillating conversation he would have created another man’” , also laid the groundwork for future developments on integral complementarity when he insisted that the female sex is not a defect and that women will be resurrected in female bodies.  Rachel’s aim is to look at the philosophical context of some of the more troubling teaching on sex polarity, exposing its Greek and pagan roots, how that was picked up in the Victorian age and beyond, and to place the categories of authority and submission alongside a more rounded relational framework of unity, interdependence, and service that we see taught in Scripture. It’s a popular level book. If Mark would like to read more in relation to theological anthropology, metaphysics, and expansive philosophy on a more academic level, I suggest he read Sister Allen Prudence’s three volume set, The Concept of Woman, in which she comes to the same conclusions as Rachel.
Mark argues that Rachel does not say enough about the differences been masculinity and femininity and that she doesn’t talk enough about the goodness of authority and submission. And yet again, it perplexes me that he drops several quotes uncritically in his review. The reader of Rachel’s book will see her stance on male headship in the home and in the church, and that she upholds biblical teaching on authority and submission. However, after reading Mark’s review, I’m left wondering if, for example, he agrees with Calvin in men’s superiority in all things, and if not, wondering why he quoted him at length:
Calvin on 1 Corinthians 11:7-8, “…but of the distinction, which God has conferred upon the man, so as to have superiority over the woman. In this superior order of dignity the glory of God is seen, as it shines forth in every kind of superiority…The first is, that as the woman derives her origin from the man, she is therefore inferior in rank. The second is, that as the woman was created for the sake of the man, she is therefore subject to him…”
Is this what the church should teach about men and women? Is this in Scripture? Plus, the language of masculinity and femininity do not pop into our vocabulary until around the time of the Renaissance.
These are short examples, but I must move on. Mark’s argument for Rachel’s lack of theological anthropology reveals his own failure to understand the glory of the woman. He says:
Miller never addresses 1 Corinthians 11:7. Paul says that, “A man is the glory of God and a woman is the glory of a man.” Surely this warrants discussion since this verse seems to suggest unequal glories, with a view to ontology? Christ’s glory, as God-man, is not equal to the divine glory that is proper to God’s essence. Does ontology explain the differing glories? Moreover, very little is done with Genesis 2:15 and theological anthropology.
This goes beyond the scope of Rachel’s book, but since he’s bringing up man’s glory as ontologically distinct, it seems his misses the mark on its meaning---woman’s greater glory as the embodiment of Zion, pointing all mankind to their end. Could it be that woman created second, the crown of creation week, is an eschatological order---that Eve's glory may exceed Adam's in that way? (There’s a lot of work being done over at the Greystone Theological Institute about this; Mark Garcia’s Theological Anthropology course goes into depth on it. I just finished lecture 6.1, "Image of God and Sexuate Asymmetry," touching on, by way of analogy, Adam and Eve's eschatological ordering resembling the glory relationship of Moses to Christ as a movement from veiled to unveiled glory--2 Cor. 3:7-18.) And could it be that, Adam’s charge in Gen. 2:15 has even more significance when Adam beholds woman and sees his telos as joining the collective bride of Christ? Her very body, in its structure and function, corresponds to the order of Levitical sacred space.  Given the vocation of a guard and keeper of sacred space, Adam fails to drive out the unclean thing from the temple while the serpent converses with the very embodiment of sacred space---his wife. Now I just said a lot that I cannot expand upon in the scope of this response, but doesn’t it point to a much richer understanding of ontology, eschatological ordering, and theological anthropology?
And if we want to talk about verses no one ever brings up, how about 1 Cor. 7:4, where we see that the husband has authority over the wife’s body, and---the shocking part--- the wife has authority over her husband’s body. What was Paul thinking in giving a wife that kind of authority over her husband?
Okay, I’m over 1,000 words in now, so I will stick to these areas and end with a quote by Prudence Allen that we can ponder:
Opening a conversation, a dialogue, about woman’s identity that includes women’s reflections on their own selves, men’s reflections on women’s identity, and women’s reflections on men’s identity may help us to overcome some of the admixtures of error and truth about women’s identity [and I add men’s too] that have persisted over time” (Concept of Woman, Vol. 3, 3).
As we look to God’s word together, I think the church can do this better. That's why I happily endorse Rachel's book.
Translated by Henry Chadwick, St. Augustine, Confessions (NY: Oxford University Press, 1991), in Chadwick’s Introduction, xviii. Quoted from St. Augustine, Literal Commentary on Genesis. (Please forgive me, Mark, for using a secondary source.)
See Prudence Allen, Concept of Woman, Vol 1, 218-236 for good overview of the complexities of Augustine’s concept of woman.
See Richard Whitekettle, “Levitical Thought and the Feminine Reproductive Cycle: Wombs, Wellsprings, and the Primeval World,” Brill Vestus Testamentum Vol. 46, Issue 3 (1996), 376-391.
See Garcia, Lecture 2.3, “The Levitical Woman,” Theological Anthropology.