Thursday, January 9, 2020

Egalitarianism vs. Christian Hierarchy

It may seem like the victory of egalitarianism is now complete. As one article has declared, “Turning back this half century of feminist advance is impossible (leaving aside the fact that is deeply undesirable).”[1] While conservatives may try to make a stand for traditional values, they seem inevitably just one step behind the progressives. Yet, those who would declare the victory of egalitarianism do not account for one thing: that God may yet arise and scatter His enemies. “As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away; as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God!” (Psalm 68:2) There is a God in the heavens and He laughs at the rebellion of the nations.

This may seem like harsh words for egalitarians. Perhaps it would be good to explain what I mean by egalitarianism. Nearly all Christians agree that individuals are of equal value and importance. They agree that every individual is made in the image of God. The point at which egalitarians differ from Christian orthodoxy is that they claim for every individual the same rights, privileges, duties, and authority.

Christianity, though, recognizes the importance of “preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 65). This does not refer to superiority and inferiority in worth or importance, but rather in authority, privilege, age, and gifts. The catechism’s footnotes refer to the human relations of husband and wife, parent and child, and master and servant. These relations are the basic types of biblical hierarchical relations (Col. 3:18-4:1) and are foundational for other hierarchical relations in society. As the Westminster Larger Catechism explains in one of its eleven questions on the fifth commandment, "By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God's ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth" (Q. 124).

Christian hierarchy is not to be confused with other forms of hierarchy. Christian hierarchy is covenantal. The superior and inferior are connected and both have duties and privileges, even if they are different. For the superior to abuse the inferior is to hurt himself. For the inferior to rebel against the superior is to undermine his own authority. The biblical picture of the body and its interrelated parts is vital to this understanding (Eph. 5:22-33, 1 Cor. 12). Also, a certain equality under the sovereignty of God is a moderating factor, as we see in Job 31:13-15 and Ephesians 6:5-9.

Egalitarianism seeks to undermine and flatten these biblical relations. Feminism, youth rebellion, and radical individualism are expressions of this movement. Eventually a leveling of society, as found in communism and revolutionary democracy, is the end. The theory that all individuals are naturally born with the same rights, privileges, duties, and authority led to the social contract theory of Hobbes and Rousseau. This led to the French Revolution and centralized tyranny. As he faced this revolution of egalitarianism, John Randolph of Roanoke (1773-1833) declared that “I love liberty, I hate equality.” Egalitarians sought to destroy the mediating institutions, like the household and church, and left all men equal under the the single will of the people as declared by the state. In a feudal or hierarchical arrangement there were various relations that limited each other and were limited under God. This system of checks and balances leads to liberty. There might be someone under your authority, but you are also under authority (e.g. a man might be head of his family, but he also must submit to his elders at church).

The Bible does not teach egalitarianism. It does teach harmony, unity, and mutual honor and duties, but this is different than sameness. This biblical hierarchy has two reinforcing reasons. When Paul argued against women teaching or exercising authority over men in the church he appealed to creation and the fall: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:12-14). These are universal truths about humanity, not limited to some particular situation. As Genesis 2-3 recounts, man and women were created differently, and then they sinned differently and were cursed differently. This is an true today as it is in Paul’s day. If man had never fell, there would still be “inferiors, superiors, and equals,” yet sin and the curse has made these distinctions even greater. Slavery, for example, is a result of sin and the curse. Some kind of slavery is inevitable in society during this age, though it is not desirable. God’s grace and redemption does not obliterate differences between people. It does mean that the effects of sin will be lessened over time. Thus slavery is softened and progressively minimized among Christians (1 Cor. 7:21-24). But our duties towards “inferiors, superiors, and equals” are more established by God’s grace, rather than lessened. Rebellion against God’s appointed order is a sign of rebellion, not grace.

Do not try hammering nails with a screw driver. Submission to God requires that we realize our created nature. We are not whatever we want to be. We are what God has created us to be. We are not inferior in worth just because we cannot do anything we want. The very traits that unfit us for one task may make us especially fit for another. Submission in faith to God’s order is the first step towards harmony and productivity.

A proper response to egalitarianism is not merely reactionary, but biblically principled, holding everyone to account and showing honor to all, especially to those who are weaker or inferior (1 Peter 3:7, 1 Cor. 12:21-25). It requires men and women, converted by God's grace, equipped by God to fulfill their station in godliness. This revolution is real and must be met by words and deeds.

It is easy to underestimate or compromise with this revolution. Not only is it powerful in our culture, but it also sounds so nice. Yet egalitarianism is deadly. Egalitarianism undermines the authority of the household, the basic unit of society. It strikes at the root of civilization. It leaves the individual at the mercy of the state and the will of the people. Egalitarianism has resulted in bloody revolutions and tyrannical measures. Egalitarianism in the form of feminism is primarily responsible for the holocaust of abortion. May God arise and scatter this revolt! And may we look at the destruction around us and seek to rebuild by taking responsibility for those around us, “preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.”

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