CHRISTIAN WOMEN AND THE HOLY SCRIPTURES
D. M. PANTON.
It is always a relief, but also a tragedy, when the seeds of error burst into their final bloom: a relief, because all eyes are opened to the evil at last; but a tragedy, because when an error comes in all its naked hideousness into the open, it is generally because its battle is won, and it can now afford to drop the mask. Dr. Katharine Bushnell's works, which may be taken as a fair sample of much that is being taught to Christian women to-day, and which are presented by her admirers as "nothing short of a revelation direct from God," reveal, as by a sudden flash of lightning, the ultimate goal of practices which, to many sincere and simple souls, appear innocent and even laudable. A pound of fact outweighs a ton of precept in disillusionment.
1. This teaching strikes a deadly blow at primal law.
The Scripture says:- "I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man: for" - here is the bedrock reason on which the prohibition rests - "Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression" (1 Tim. 2: 12). That is, the prohibition of a woman’s public teaching, or exercising any sort of authority over man, is prohibited on the ground of the order of creation, and also on the ground of her prior fall; both the priority given to the male by prior creation, and Eve’s disastrous misuse of initiative, are made, by the Holy Ghost, the grounds of a forbidden public ministry. Now Dr. Bushnell’s divergence is radical and profound. Humanity (according to her) was originally, as the Deity now is, bi-sexual, so that both were created by a simultaneous act: the sexes appeared when Adam was divided into two, man thus having no priority over woman: Eve never fell, never sinned herself, though she got involved in the fall, and Adam was already fallen when she was sent to restore him: had Eve not hearkened to Adam, she might have reversed the Fall: that birth-travail was imposed as a penalty of the Fall is, "a wicked and cruel superstition": God warned Eve in Eden not to obey her husband, and it was her obedience to her husband which was the Fall: the subjection of woman in church and home had its origin in the woman-hatred of the Rabbis, and its perpetuation by priestcraft: therefore also, as the Fall was woman's subjection, so the social salvation of the race will follow woman's emancipation. And how does Dr. Bushnell arrive at these astounding results? By giving a fresh translation to nearly every Scripture involved. Our versions, both Authorised and Revised, wherever passages on woman’s status occur, are cast contemptuously aside as man-made translations, which "would have been of a much higher order had women had a place on the translation-committees"*; and the true meaning of the Holy Ghost, after a burial of nineteen centuries, has now been unearthed by Dr. Bushnell.
[* It may be taken as an axiom that the writer who pronounces both our Versions incompetent in an entire department of translation at once puts himself out of court with all serious thinkers, and ruins even the truth which he may really present by an initial blunder so colossal. Dr. Bushnell’s alterations are exceedingly daring. The knowledge of good and evil becomes the knowledge of pleasure and pain (Gen. 2: 17); in Gen. 3: 16, desire, becomes ‘turning,’ and ‘conception’ a ‘snare’; Sarah's obedience and calling Abraham ‘lord’ (1 Pet. 3: 6) becomes Sarah calling him ‘Sir’ and Abraham obeying Sarah (Gen. 21: 12); the man’s ‘headship' of the woman (1 Cor. 11: 3) means ‘support’ only, and involves no control; 1 Tim. 2: 12 is confined (conveniently) to the age of Nero; ‘made’ (1 Tim. 2: 13, 15) means, not ‘created,’ but socially developed, and ‘childbearing’ has no reference to the ordinary birth of children; Paul’s words - "Is it seemly that a woman pray unto God unveiled?" (1 Cor. 11: 13) become - "It is seemly that a woman pray unto God unveiled"; and so forth and so on. (All quotations are from God’s Mind to Women and One Hundred and One Questions Answered).]
2. This teaching strikes a deadly blow at home life.
The Scripture says:- "Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection" (1 Tim. 2: 11): "as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their husbands in everything," (Eph. 5: 24.) for "the head of the woman is the man" (Cor. 11: 3). All obedience and even subjection in woman or wife are wholly denied. God, says Dr. Bushnell, "never ordained the governance of woman by man: He has forbidden it among believers": Eve fell under Adam’s rule, "but this is not God's will; this is the fruit of her wrong choice; let the choice cease. Where this state of bondage reigns, whether the bondage of a slave or a wife to a husband, the kingdom of heaven has not yet come." "Lordship of the husband over the wife is Satanic in origin." How profoundly different God's ideal! The Holy Ghost is careful to insist with equal emphasis on two things - the husband's love, the wife's obedience (Eph. 5: 24, 25): where these two are, there is the perfect home. As a woman herself has put it, tenderly and beautifully:-
Her seat is endless ministry; her crown
The need and worship of some man whose love
She o'er her pride and self-desire folds down
And sets in mastery her own heart above;
Her sceptre is a little child’s weak hand;
Her orb, humility; her mantle, prayer;
Her right divine, to be, at Heaven's command,
Man's mother, mate, and help-meet past compare.
3. This teaching strikes a deadly blow at Church order.
The Scripture says:- "Let the women keep silence in the churches; for it is not permitted unto them to speak; for it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church." (1 Cor. 14: 34). If no interpreter is present, the speaker in tongues is to KEEP SILENCE: if a seated prophet has a sudden revelation, the speaking prophet is to KEEP SILENCE: the women, without exception, are to KEEP SILENCE. Twenty times in fifteen verses ‘to speak’ means to address the public assembly. I confess that I turned with great curiosity to see how an acute intellect would attempt to storm an impregnable citadel. Will it be believed when it is stated? Dr. Bushnell says the words are a quotation - a quotation from Jewish Rabbis and woman-haters; that in these words Paul is quoting what he is opposing with all his might; that it is a quotation which he is attacking, not a truth which he is asserting: "Paul is uttering a strong protest against this sort of opposition to women." One falls back aghast. Surely what the Holy Spirit calls ‘wresting the Scriptures’ (even though, it may be, with sincere motives) could no further go. "The teaching," says Dr. Bushnell, "that woman must perpetually keep silence in the church, be obedient to her husband, and never presume to teach or preach, blights the doctrine of the Atonement, and robs Christ of glory." But this interpretation carries with it a very valuable lesson. If Dr. Bushnell sees only the quotation from an antagonist in the command of silence, it is because she abandons in despair all hope of reconciling that command with woman’s public ministry: her grotesque conjecture is a final acknowledgment that the passage cannot be squared, by any ingenuity of human skill, with anything but silence. Grave church disorder will enter in through disregard of a rebuke of our Lord in one of His last utterances to a church on earth:- "Thou sufferest the woman Jezebel TO TEACH " (Rev. 2: 20).
4. This teaching strikes a deadly blow at woman's safety.
The Scripture says:- "Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man: for this cause ought the woman to have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels." (1. Cor. 11: 10). Dr. Bushnell appeals to the Montanists of the third century, whose ‘inspired’ were almost exclusively women, and among whom, appointed by that ‘inspired’ utterance, were women pastors, women evangelists, women deacons, and women bishops. No appeal could be more fatal. Montanus was a man who claimed to be the Godhead incarnate; and the whole church, with a unanimity rare even then, refused Montanism as a manifestation of unclean spirits.* Montanism is exactly what reveals woman’s peculiar peril, and God's wise placing of her within natural and holy family and church safeguards. The vast majority of the ‘inspired’ among the Montanists, the Camisards, and the Irvingites were women, and each of these originated with women; witches all down the ages have been proverbially commoner than wizards; in every large American city to-day there are hundreds of women mediums; and most modern demonisms (including Spiritualism itself) have had women founders, from Ame Lee and Joanna Southcote to Madame Blavatsky, Mrs. Eddy, Mrs. Besant, and Dr. Julia Sears. As all history shows, woman herself is the worst sufferer from the outbreak of lawless passions, whether from the unseen world or from men; and her sole safety and only genuine emancipation lie in loving and loyal obedience to the exact letter of every Word of her God.
[* Montanus said:- "I am the Lord God Almighty dwelling in man: I am the Word, and the Spirit, and the Power." A contemporary writer, quoted by Eusebius, says:- "This arrogant spirit taught them to revile the whole and every particular church under heaven, because this spirit of false prophecy received no honour or countenance from it." Montanism, Eusebius adds, "was held in abhorrence by the whole Christian brotherhood throughout the world."]
5. This teaching strikes a deadly blow at Divine inspiration.
Paul's utterances, taken as they stand in our Versions, are - in Dr. Bushnell’s words - "puerile sophistries," "pitiful, puerile, and ego-centric." The entire fabric of Scripture reels if one brick is thus found utterly rotten; and the catastrophe is only to be averted, on Dr. Bushnell's own shewing, by the Church repudiating the scholarship of two thousand years, and adopting her own versions. It is a colossal claim; and it is exceedingly impressive and will, to most, close the controversy, that, if our Versions are correct, the Church's age-long attitude on woman’s status is proved Divine, Dr. Bushnell herself being, the judge. The instructed believer who nevertheless welcomes the modern woman’s ‘emancipation’ from all the restraints of nature, custom, and revelation, must (and does) accept the Woman Movement, alone among the vast world-movements of to-day, as Divine in origin and impetus; that is, he impales himself on an impossible intellectual dilemma, and must either ultimately broaden out into an acceptance of the awful parallel world-currents and so be swept into apostasy, or else detect one more stratagem whereby Satan is ensnaring the world. The Holy Ghost, foreseeing such assaults as these upon his ambassador, couches His protest in words of uttermost solemnity: "If any man thinketh himself to be a prophet, or spiritual [inspired], let him acknowledge [as a discriminating test among the miracle-gifted, to whom alone this test applies, discriminating Divine from Satanic supernatural action and utterance] that the things I write unto you [the silence of women being the last command immediately preceding] are THE COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD" (1 Cor. 14: 37).
The gravest and most startling fact still remains. IT IS A FACT OPEN TO ALL TO VERIFY THAT THIS TEACHING IS GIVEN (PROBABLY FOR THE FIRST TIME TO THE MODERN WORLD) IN ONE OF THE MOST SATANIC BOOKS OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
[* Ibid., p. 167. ** Ibid., p. 313. *** Ibid., p. 273.]
He is bold indeed who imagines that a truth of the Holy Ghost, which has lain buried for nearly two millenniums, was first unearthed to the modern world in a book embodying the quintessence of Theosophy.