Saturday 7 February 2015

50 Shades of Quiverfull

Many years ago, my father attended a Bill Gothard Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, and he also bought some of the materials, including the Character Sketches, eventually owning two volumes. Some time later, some other family members attended one as well, and I remember them discussing the concept of submission: wives' submission to husbands and children's submission to parents. Questions discussed were: If a Christian young man is convicted that the Lord is calling him to be a minister, but his father is opposed to it, should he study to be a minister or submit to his father? And, if a Christian woman's husband wants her to work as a prostitute, should she submit to her husband? I found the discussion ridiculous, offensive and even downright dangerous. To even entertain the idea of submission to a human being above the will of God is idolatry. The Bible says, "We ought to obey God rather than men," Acts 5:29; "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me," Exodus 20:3; and "He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me," Matthew 10:37. To elevate the principle of submission to earthly authorities above the revealed will of God is a dangerous concept indeed and I question the validity of any ministry that would promote this concept. 
Fast forward 20 years (give or take a few) and the Character Sketches books were very popular amongst homeschoolers. And I was a homeschooler and somehow I came into possession of my father's Character Sketches books. However, after reading a couple of "sketches" in the books that drew erroneous conclusions from Bible stories that weren't at all warranted by the Bible narrative (indeed, I would conclude the opposite from the Bible story), I, once again had to call this ministry into question. Once more, these stories both were on the subject of submission to authority and I couldn't help but wonder why this ministry was so intent on robbing wives and children of their God-given autonomy and their ability to discover and follow God's will independent of their husbands and parents. I don't believe that's Biblical and that certainly was not a concept I wanted to teach my daughter. I've only kept those books out of respect for my father's memory. 
(For more on Bill Gothard and his ministry, go here).
That was all before I ever heard about the "Quiverfull Movement." The name comes from Psalm 127:5, but I'll quote verses 3-5 so you'll get the context: 
"Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are the children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate." 
"Quiverfull," unfortunately, is not quite the right name because it doesn't encompass everything that this movement stands for. Not only do its adherents abstain from using birth control (not even the rhythm method), but they also practice "patriarchy" or the kind of submission advocated by Bill Gothard's ministry. Indeed, the "poster children" for the Quiverfull Movement, the Duggars, have been associated with the Gothard ministry. 
Obviously, as a divorced career woman, with a university degree and only one child, I am not the "poster child" of the Quiverfull Movement. And, from my comments above, you can tell that it's not really something I'm supportive of. I'm not saying there's not some good in it, but overall, I think there's too much that's not good. Dare I venture to say that Gothard's less than stellar life is a result of his own erroneous teachings? And what really disturbs me is that this lifestyle is passing itself off as "Biblical family values" or "God's ideal for the Christian family." And some people that have left the movement have totally turned their backs on Jesus because they believed that lifestyle was actually what Jesus wanted for them. And if that were the case, then they didn't want Jesus anymore. I can't say that I blame them. I wouldn't either.
So, with prayer and some some study helps (concordance, commentaries, etc.), I want the Bible to show that the "Quiverfull Movement" is not really Biblical Christianity. I'm not saying that its adherents are not Christians, just that what they promote as Biblical is not necessarily so. 
1. Birth Control
The only reference I can think of that even remotely addresses the issue of birth control (or contraception) is Genesis 38:8-10. Here the man practicing "withdrawal" is condemned because of his disobedience, selfishness and greed. It's certainly not enough to build a case on for finding birth control sinful. (If you want more explanation on this particularly text, email me and I can send you what the Bible commentary says. This topic is too long and detailed to try to explain in this blog post). 
The verses found in Psalm 127, quoted above, are an observation, not a divine command. Quiverfull people need to remember that. Incidentally, I once had a Christian surgeon tell me that a "quiver full" is five arrows. I'm not sure where he got that tidbit from and I couldn't find anything in Strong's about that, nor in my other references, but it is interesting that he didn't say 7, or 10 or 12.
Now I'm going to quote Vyckie Garrison, a woman who left the Quiverfull movement, on the Quiverfull concept of Psalm 127:
That verse in Psalm 127 says, "Blessed is the MAN who has his quiver full of them."  And it goes on to say, "he shall not be ashamed, but will speak with the enemies in the gates." We were taught that in Bible times, the city gate was the place where male leaders made decisions regarding local government.
So this was about political domination. The whole point of having a quiver full of babies is to out-populate the "enemy" and to shoot those many arrows "straight into the heart of the enemy."  And by that, we meant that our children would grow up to be leaders in all the major institutions of our society. This was our plan for taking back America for God. So the children were like ammunition in God's holy war.
If that weren't so pitiful, it would be laughable. Talk about screwed up theology! Where is that found in the Bible? What I read in my Bible is that things are going to get worse and worse until the great final time of trouble, and then Jesus will come. I don't see the Scriptures supporting anything about "taking back America for God." Oh, unless you're talking about the Image to the Beast found in Revelation 13, the false revival. (If you want more information on this particular topic, go to Revelation Mystery).
Now, I firmly believe that children are a blessing, or at least should be, but these verses in no way imply that we should continue to reproduce indiscriminately. On the contrary, the word of the Lord says that, "if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." (1 Timothy 5:8). In light of this text, having more children than one can comfortably provide for is reprehensible. Assuming that "the Lord will provide" is presumption, not faith.  
So let's jump back to Genesis 1:27,28: 
"So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."
I find it interesting that the Quiverfull people generally only quote, "Be frutful and multiply" to support their beliefs and don't continue with "and replenish the earth." Or "fill the earth" to use a modern translation. Here's a quote from my Bible commentary on this verse: "The divine commission has been understood by various commentators to indicate that the reproduction of human beings should not continue endlessly, but was to cease when the earth was filled with human beings and their animal subjects." (SDA Bible Commentary, volume 1, page 217). I remember being in Boston and New York City at the age of 16. I couldn't get over how many people there were on the sidewalks. Just walking down the sidewalk, it was hard not to bump into people. Like a living stream. And that was a lot of years ago. The population has just grown since then. It seems to me that this world is pretty full. The only places that aren't full are deserts and Canada's far north and I don't see the Quiverfull people rushing to fill them. Maybe I'm being a little too sarcastic, but human beings are probably about the only species whose population isn't naturally curbed once it reaches saturation point. (If you want to read an amusing, sarcastic and slightly irreverent review of Nancy Campbell's book, Be Fruitful and Multiply, by Suzanne Titkemeyer, go here). 
1 Corinthians has this to say, "What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (6:19,20). And, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." (10:31). It is not glorifying to God or wise stewarship of a woman's strength to wear herself out with a perpetual round of pregnancy and lactation. 
Clearly then, I cannot belive that the Bible supports the kind of prolific breeding that the Quiverfull Movement endorses. 
As an aside, I find it really interesting that the Quiverfull Movement is really big on following Genesis 1:28 (even though they tend to ignore the "replenish the earth" part), but they fail to acknowledge the next verse:
"And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat." (Genesis 1:29). 
God's original and perfect diet for human beings is a whole food, plant-based diet, just what research is now demonstrating is healthiest for us. But I haven't heard of any Quiverfulls rushing to become vegans. 
Furthermore, Quiverfulls, as a general rule, also fail to keep the true Bible Sabbath, which was instituted at the end of creation week. You'll find it just in the next chapter:
"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made." (Genesis 2:1-3).
Saturday is the true Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, the one enshrined in the heart of the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20: 8-11. Now, though she was talking about the command to "be fruitful and multiply," I'm going to quote Nancy Campbell, because it is true about the Sabbath commandment, "We can find no place in Scripture where God rescinds this command." (quoted from here).  Now back to the topic.
2. Patriarchy
Let me start this topic by sharing something that the Apostle Peter said. This time I'm using the New International Version to make sure it's clear: "Just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:15,16). 
So here we have it that Scripture can be distorted to mean something it wasn't intended to mean. And Peter mentions specifically the writings of Paul, who writes some things that are hard to understand. I agree. And especially on the topic of patriarchy are Paul's writings hard to understand. 
There are many examples of women in leadership in both the old and new testaments: prophetesses, judge, deaconesses. It's not my purpose to cover this whole topic exhaustively in this post, but I do want to recommend to you the following link: Free Bible Commentary, volume 9. The author is Bob Utley of the East Texas Baptist University. Scroll down to page 47 where you'll find a section entitled Special Topic: Women in the Bible. It's a very relevant treatment of this topic. Please also see this volume for it's comments on 1 Timothy chapter 2. I'll just share a couple of paragraphs from this section on verse 15:
The immediate context seems to emphasize that women as home-makers is the societal expectation of Paul's day, and for most societies, ancient and modern. Woman's salvation does not come from leadership in public worship or an unexpected cultural freedom.
In truth it does not come from expected social roles either, but through faith and it's fruits (cf. v. 15b). Salvation is in and through Christ. Godly women trust Him and do not seek to draw undue attention to themselves. However, in our culture the "undue attention" occurs when women are limited. As lost people would have been turned off by overative Christian women in the first century, today's lost people are turned off by a seeming Christian sexism and legalism...
In volume 8 of the same commentary, on the subject of Ephesians 5:23, we read:
Christ is depicted as the husband and the church as the bride (cf. Rev. 19:7, 21:2,9). Husbands need to act in their God-given leadership position just as Christ did. He gave Himself for the church. It is not a control issue, but a giving of self issue.
Male headship is a very controversial issue in our modern western society. This is for several reasons: (1) we do not understand servant leadership; (2) we do not like patriarchal societies because of our modern egalitarian emphasis on the worth of the individual; and (3) we are confused by the Bible's paradoxical way of asserting male headship in some passages and equality in others.
I can personally accept male headship as a result of the fall (cf. Gen. 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:12-14). I can also affirm it as a biblical concept in light of Jesus' leadership of the church (cf. Eph. 5:22-33). But what I find difficult to accept is a patriarchal mandate (i.e. male dominated societies) as God's revealed plan for every age and society (cf. Rom. 3:27; 1 Cor. 12:7.13; Gal. 3:28-29; Col 3:11). Does the mutuality so obvious in Gen. 1:27; 2:18 which was lost in Adam and Eve's rebellion (cf. Gen. 3:16), return in salvation? Is the curse of sin and subservience both dealt within Jesus' redemption? As the new age breaks into the lives of believers now, does also the restoration of complete fellowship with God as in Eden also begin now?
I would also like to make a hermeneutical point. As an interpreter of what I believe to be the self-revelation of the one true god and His Christ, I am surprised by the cultural aspect of Scripture...
The two issues which stand out to me to have obvious cultural aspects (1) male dominated societies (patriarchy) and (2) slavery. The NT never attempts to address the unfairness of these cultural pillars of the ancient world. Possibly because to do so would have meant the destruction of Christianity. Yet the gospel through time is abolishing both! God's truth never changes but societies do change. It is a grave mistake for us to attempt to turn first century Greco-Roman culture into God's will for all people in all places and of course the same is true for Israelite culture. Into each of them God revealed Himself in powerful and permanent ways. The real task is how to get the eternal absolutes out of its cultural husk...
One way to try to determine what is eternal and therefore binding on all believers in all periods and what is cultural, or personal preference is to see if the Bible (OT & NT) gives a uniform message or does it record a variety of opinions...
My fear is that I might let my denominational training, personality, culture and personal preferences silence or diminish revealed truth! My ultimate authority is God and His revelation (i.e. in His Son, and in a written record, the Bible). But I realize He revealed Himself to a specific period of history, to a particular culture and everything in that culture was not His will. Yet, God had to speak to people of that culture in terms and categories they could understand. The Bible then is a historical document. I dare not ignore its supernatural aspect or its cultural aspect. 
(Emphasis in italics in both quotes is mine). 
So yes, Paul's texts on this topic seem to be confusing and contradictory. But he lived in a patriarchal society and to violate all social and cultural norms in the name of freedom in Christ would have done more harm than good to the growth of the Christian church. We no longer live in a patriarchal society. Freedom is granted to all in Christ Jesus (cf. Gal. 3:28). So to continue with the model of partriachy will now do more harm than good. Indeed, it already has. Just google "quiverfull" and follow some of the links. Vyckie Garrison has this to say about her mentality while in the Quiverfull Movement: "I knew that as a woman, I was particularly susceptible to deception by Satan." Where is that in the Bible? How is that kind of attitude calculated to encourage and build up a Christian woman?
In conclusion, I want to share a few texts from Proverbs 31 NIV. This is the chapter that all good Quiverfull women aspire to. 
"She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sees that her trading is profitable.
She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. 
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household." vv. 16,18,24,26,27.
That does not sound like a meek, submissive, dependent wife to me. That sounds like an independent, self-directed entrepeneurial woman who can make her own decisions, manage her own money and has confidence in herself. The woman God meant her to be!
Oh, in case you're wondering about my reference to 50 Shades of Grey in the title of this post: I believe that it is the patriarchal, controlling, dominating, misogynist mentality present in the Quiverfull Movement that sets women up for sadistic, manipulative, unhealthy relationships as portrayed in that book. (No, I did not read it, but I did read enough about it to know it disgusts me). 

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