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September 26, 2006



"It's like suddenly being told you don't have to write a long paper for a difficult class. All you have to do is grasp one single concept, and you get an A. The appeal is obvious."

Exactly. This is why many women I know have given up on academic achievement and gotten pregnant/ married young. Because it's easier. You get rewarded for birthing and raising tomorrow's generation, and you get a free pass to stay home and relieve yourself of the stress of higher education and a challenging career. It's really a simple concept, but one that most traditional females/ stay at home mothers would be very incensed by. I've always found it highly suspicious that a fully realized human being would be fulfilled by a life of breeding alone, but that's my own prejudice operating.

Also, this newer movement (in various Christian sects) towards more traditional gender relations is probably a reason many progressives (female and male) leave the church altogether. It's much easier to wash your hands of all religion than to look long and hard for a church that is consistent with, or at the very least accepting of, progressive values.


Wow, I had no idea Calvinism of any form was ascendant in any variety. I'll have to modify some of comments when I teach Weber (Just the other day I called predestination an archaic relic of Christian dogma. Shows what I know...)


Cross-posting from Jenell Paris's post.

I grew up in a basically Arminian church. After college, I began attending a theologically conservative Reformed church--although I remained an Arminian. I think a desire for understanding and permanence is the attraction to Calvinism; the doctrines are well-thought-out, clearly tied together, and based on a comprehensible system of interpretation. Many of us who grew up in the Arminian world were (and are) hungry for that--hungry for something other than ungrounded emotionalism and today's-pet-cause-with-proof-texts preaching--and Calvinism provides that. (iMonk is another good example).

This desire for permanent things fits well with the complementarity view of gender roles--that has been the belief of almost all Christians, for almost all of Christian history. In my experience, though, that isn't much of a motivator; most people coming to Calvinism are coming from traditions that are also view the sexes as complementary rather than identical.

Added here:

Calling Plain churches "Arminian", as I do above, is accurate in a way, but it is sort of like calling Roman Catholics "Arminian"; the Anabaptists split with the Protestants long before the Calvinist/Arminian split.

Calvinist theology is far more systematic than any of the alternatives; "it all fits together" is a significant attraction for some people (I'm one, although it ended up not being enough).

Someone ought to mention Doug Wilson, so I will; he's probably the Calvinist who is most identified with strong male leadership.

And jas, your prejudice is showing. Women in the conservative Christian world do far more than "breed." Running households and raising children is a lot more work than just giving birth, and is considered important and prestigious.


Jas, I challenge your stereotypical assumption that being a mother is easier than education and a career. Sure, anyone can be a mindless breeder, but anyone can be a mindless academic bureaucrat or corporate cog in the machine. There are just not that many careers, for either men or women, that are fulfilling enough to compete with a loving family relationship - AND that pay well enough to justify the mountains of debt that most college graduates now bear. Instead of putting down women who are choosing between two imperfect extremes, let's question why our society demands so much time in the workplace to make ends meet, that many women can't have both motherhood and a mentally stimulating job. FYI, I am not a mother, I have a law degree, and I run my own business, tho I don't always mind my own business :)

And Hugo, AMEN!! on limited atonement. An awful idea and very out of keeping with Christ's words and character, IMHO. I don't recall him ever turning someone away with "Sorry, you're not on the list". (He got close to that with the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15, but then HER FAITH persuaded him to change his mind - sounds Arminian to me.)



I'm with you on especially excoriating the L (though I'm not fond of the rest of TULIP either, though T is a good concept to emphasize the limitations of our interpretive abilities). To me, it seems like an unwarranted borrowing of economic concepts of scarcity and efficiency into a theological context, and it seriously distorts what I find good about Reformed theology, the doctrine of creation as being completely made by God as good and trustworthy (and hence worth studying and preserving) and the emphasis on seeing Christianity as furthering the kingdom of God but which doesn't confuse God's kingdom with earthly political power (both emphases I've enjoyed learning about while being part of a CRC congregation for the past five years).


As a grad student for five years, I've also seen this curious trend of seeing many of the Christians in our graduate intervarsity chapter get married and then become disinterested in the acadmic realm. Who knew that some women go to grad school, of all places, for an Mrs. degree and not much else? But perhaps equally as disturbing is that there seems to be some sort of "demand" for these women as well, i.e., there are conservative Christian men who desire both academic/occupational achievement and intelligent and academically-capable women as spouses but who nonetheless would prefer their spouses to not actually achieve academically; you'd think the cognitive dissonance of desiring a gifted wife who has no place to use her gifts would kick in at some point, but it never seems to.


Jas - *g*: as someone who has both done some stay-at-home parenting, and has 2 degrees and a successful career, it is my experience that the education and career route is way, way less stressful. YMMV.


"And jas, your prejudice is showing. Women in the conservative Christian world do far more than "breed." Running households and raising children is a lot more work than just giving birth, and is considered important and prestigious."

And I happen to disagree. Claiming that motherhood is pretigious is laughable. Wiping up drool and washing dishes is not prestigious in the slightest, although claiming so would benefit conservative Christian men who need to glamorize motherhood in order to keep women from being interested in fully developing themselves academically and professionally. Also keep in mind that I ... have a mother. I know several mothers. I don't hate mothers, but it's ridiculous and patronizing to those who are mothers to claim that their work is prestigious.

And Jendi, although I am aware of your point, your desire to compare corporate employees and bureaucrats to mothers is a little extreme. Sure, both can be hardworking; both can be idiots. But greater education (which fewer stay-at-home mothers have and more corporate employees have) has its benefits and is far more difficult to achieve than simply getting pregnant, giving birth, and managing to keep your child alive and somewhat healthy for 18 years. It simply does not take but the most basic skills or intelligence to raise a child (albeit somewhat poorly). You cannot do the same as even the most mindless of corporate cogs. However mindless that cog may be, she is still quite intelligent and had to be to complete her education. We all know people who shouldn't be parents but are, and whose low IQ will not preclude them from generating offspring. They do, and will continue to breed, proving that motherhood is not rocket science. So, although my generalization is a generalization, it stands.

The question for me is not why women can't be both "career women" (wonderfully patronizing) and mothers, but why men can't be both "career men" and active fathers. Perhaps then women wouldn't have to choose between raising healthy children and fully utilizing their skills and intelligence in the professional world.


Sam, I agree that "Arminian" is not generally a helpful way of saying "not a Calvinist".  Indecsive, you make an excellent point:

...there are conservative Christian men who desire both academic/occupational achievement and intelligent and academically-capable women as spouses but who nonetheless would prefer their spouses to not actually achieve academically; you'd think the cognitive dissonance of desiring a gifted wife who has no place to use her gifts would kick in at some point, but it never seems to.

On a related note, check out this post of mine on "shutting down your wife."


We live in a time where the heresy of "muscular Christianity" is re-emerging

So long as the concurrent heresy of Christian Socialism is likewise contained. Myself, I am rather partial to "striding through the world helping lame dogs over stiles". Perhaps I can empathise or something.

I like Reformed people, despite all your rather snide remarks about cold cerebralness and unsophistication. We, unlike them, are the sophisticates who understand the real issues of femininity and masculinity. Like Ophelia, We have thought much harder. Sorry, dear friend, no dice with the needling.

Calvinists have deep nobility of character. And that's despite the fact that I only subscribe to the "T" in TULIP. I greet the resurgence with joy.


John, by "muscular Christianity", I mean the Promise Keepers and the constant admonitions that men must "gird themselves for battle." Military analogies rest uneasily with Matthew 5.

I've known many warm Calvinists. As I tend to boast too often, I count the great Richard Mouw as a personal friend. He's a five-pointer, but a winsome and kind one. (He's from the school that says that while the the atonement is limited, it may be so inclusive that just about everyone gets in, the occasional Hitler excepted.)

And when Christian Socialism owes more to Marx than to Christ, you're right, it's a heresy. But there's nothing heretical about pointing out Acts 2:44.


Military analogies rest uneasily with Matthew 5.

Well, you can take that one up with St. Paul.


Well, you can take that one up with St. Paul.

What makes you think I don't?


Yes, being a mother is so "respected" that we never, ever routinely accuse them of being lazy.

Unless they're an ex-wife, single, and/or low-income. Then they're lazy sluts.

And being a mother is so "respected" that like other respected jobs in a capitalist society, it offers a healthy paycheck / full medical benefits.

Or not.

It's so respected that mothers have the choice to set their own hours, and at the end of the day, they get to leave their workplace.


But at least it's so intellectually stimulating that women never ever complain about having to watch Barney/ Seaseme Street/ SpongeBob Squarepants/ Dora the Explora a million times. Or you'll never catch them talking in baby talk outside of the home.


Respected my white nalgas.


What makes you think I don't?

That's very true, you do. Evangelical my eye! :-)

The Gonzman

But there's nothing heretical about pointing out Acts 2:44.

And neither is it heretical to point out that this was an act of love under will; though I think you are searching more for verse 45, I always had the exegesis of verse 44 being that of commonality in belief.

And I don't recall that the Apostles had the jackbooted goons of the Apostolic Revenue Service breaking down doors and taking things at swordpoint either, if they felt someone wasn't "giving their fair share." A world of difference between preaching from the pulpit, and enacting it into law which is enforced at the point of a gun.


Gonz, quite right, I meant 44-45 together. And Christian Socialism is ambivalent about harnessing the power of the state. Indeed, I'm increasingly suspicious of the state's ability to compel virtue from anyone. This represents an evolution in my thinking, mind you.

John, I argue with St. Paul in my head all the time. I also talk to Jesus a lot, and regularly give my Savior a piece of my mind. For me, part of being evangelical is having a lively, ongoing conversation with my Lord and those who spread the Gospel.


Let me restate my main point:

I know the conservative Calvinist and non-Calvinist worlds reasonably well, from extensive personal experience in both. From what I see, the attractions of Calvinism are continuity and careful thought; this means that it is in general far LESS subject to politicization than the Arminian/Wesleyan/revivalist tradition represented by the Methodists, the SBC and the Assemblies of God. The issue of gender roles doesn't appear, to me, to be significant (I'm disagreeing with Jenell Paris); the Calvinists and the traditionalist non-Calvinists who are looking toward Calvinism have nearly identical views on appropriate gender roles.

And for me, coming from a tradition where pastors are unpaid--the "if it's not a paid job it's not respected" argument is so incomprehensible I don't even know how to start demolishing it.



A few thoughts:

*When it comes to this issue, progressives apparently feel the need to continually psychoanalyze those Christians (and particularly women) who take the complementary view. You see it as inevitably being about people feeling more comfortable with certainty and uncomfortable with ambiguity. Can y’all never accept, though, that for many (I’d say most) complementarian Christians, it’s not about psychological factors but about being faithful to Scripture? From their readings of the relevant passages in the pastoral epistles, Ephesians, and other Scriptures, they really do hold that men and women are equal but have very different roles. They often come to this understanding after being egalitarians, so the change often involves a major shift in their beliefs. To them, it’s an issue of faithfulness, and to dismiss that conviction as being comfortable with certainty and uncomfortable with ambiguity is just plain missing the point.

Obviously, I'm not saying that what y'all are saying isn't true for some. But it's not the motivation for the majority, IMHO. (Progressives similarly often think that traditional Anglo-Catholics who oppose women's ordination are prejudiced or sexist, when the real issue is one of faith.)

*The real money quote in the article is John Piper’s comment that people are becoming Calvinists because Calvinism “makes their heart sing.” Perhaps the most salient point in the article is that the young Calvinists aren’t particularly interested in Calvin; that’s quite a change from older, well-known Reformed leaders. How is this newer, more heartfelt and perhaps more “feeling” form of Reformed theology, with its emphasis on Edwards and “religious affections,” going to differ from the “thinking,” extremely intellectual Reformed theology so prevalent in the last century and longer? That’s something to watch.

*I wish that CT would have looked into whether the new Calvinists were somehow influenced in their acceptance of Reformed theology by the popularity of fate in our culture. (I’ve met many people over the last five years or so who believe in fate, and of course it’s been popularly presented in the Matrix films and other works.) To me, that would be a fascinating question to examine.

Peace of Christ,


Chip, that's fair. Let's declare a detente. Conservative Christians can stop psychoanalizing gays and lesbians as "immature" and "rebellious", and I'll stop suggesting that many conservatives are simply expressing a childlike longing for simplicity!



Hugo -

I wanted to ponder this overnight before responding.

I think moving into Calvinism is - in the long run - a good thing. My own denomination started off strict Calivinist and have since become among the most liberal around. Calvinism's intellectual nature is a good thing - historically Calivnists tend to be open to the understanding of science and while they may not wholeheartedly embrace science, at least they aren't anti-intellectual which is what one finds in much conservative theology (usually phrased as if science disagrees with the bible, then science is wrong). Process theology (at least as I understand it) is a strong Reformed response to contemporary scientific understanding of the world.

I think we have a starting place in liberation theology. Process theology is far too intellectual - it is difficult to grasp, difficult to explain and complicated to enact. Liberation theology, however, is egalitarian, empowering, and asks questions about society from a place of deep, profound and authentic faith. Even though liberation theology started in the Catholic tradition, I find it informs my own Protestant faith. Liberation theology isn't about church hierarchy - it is about transforming society in ways that free persons to be holy and wholly selves. And, liberation theology has given us one of the greatest quotes in history - "When I fed the poor they called me a saint, when I asked why the poor have no food, they called me a communist."

As I read this post, I was reminded of the early 19th Cult of Republican Motherhood. Given my cultural context (living in Utah) I see a unique expression of the idea of male and female separate but equal theology. My cousins who attended BYU were taught that they should be educated women to be better mothers - not because they might want careers. In some very real ways, such theology removes the deep ambiguity and uncertainties of egalitarianism - it makes relationships easier because couples don't have to negotiate their roles in marriage, it creates an easily understood role for each person.


The "prestigious" and "respected" arguments about motherhood are coming from such different perspectives that they will never meet as long as they ignore the differences in their standards.

Some people consider motherhood a "prestigious" career worthy of respect because they value the effect that it can have on another person's life and think this effect is valuable to the rest of society.

Some people believe "prestige" depends on direct recognition through specific social factors like job title and remuneration and formal degrees. Since they don't think "motherhood" requires any special preparation or formal education, it must therefore not be a prestigious career.

I think those standards are insulting to many people besides mothers. If you only believe white-collar standards are worth respecting, how can you respect the intelligence of an artist? Of a craftsman? Why should only educated people be respected? Why should pay be a sign of respectability? Dedication and love and hard work and curiosity, regardless of the education level that accompanies them or the job title that they serve, are worthy of respect from anyone.

Why should we agree to follow the narrow bounds of "respectability" that were set in place by a racist patriarchal system to benefit the leaders of that system? I don't mean to devalue formal education, but it's insulting to suggest that people without a high level of education are automatically less intelligent or curious or involved in their own lives.


Whoops, I cross-posted past the Calvinist posts. Mine was intented to be a response to SamChevre & Arwen & Jas.

As to the arguments about educated mothers, there was a book that came out a few years ago that argued a lot of the early education of women movement in the western tradition started with making wives more fit companions for their husbands. Now the same arguments are being made for the children, but keep in mind this is happening at the same time that homeschooling is continuing to increase in popularity among conservative Christions. Having a wife be educated in order to educate her children is very different than having her be educated for social prestige as she cleans the house and cooks dinner.

And please! Education should be valued for its own sake regardless of whether one uses it in a career. Why else do people advise pre-law students to study history or ancient languages or art or literature? If it brings useful skills and a wider knowledge of the world to lawyers it should be the same for anyone else, regardless of the relative prestige of their later career.


A paycheck is a PERFECTLY valid charecteristic of respect in a capitalist society. If you disagree with me, you'll have to either give me a disagreement, or link me to one.

Fine, let's throw in another one:

Mother's are so respected that frequently they are asked for advice in large scale operations and never dismissed as just repeating "Tales".


If you disagree with my showing of respect, you tell ME how mothers are respected. What signs of their respect and recognition do they get? What do mothers get that make up for subservience, dependency, and dismissal?

I'm waiting...

The Gonzman

Well, Antigone, I'm sure you don't run into a lot of respect for mothers, especially the SAHM type, in most feminist circles to be sure. You win.


Gonz, please

If you're paying attention, you'll notice several feminists immediately jumped on those assumptions and disagreed vehemently, even those of us who aren't mothers and don't seem to be thinking we will be anytime soon.

Arwen, I'm sorry I confused you with Antigone.
Antigone, I happen to disagree with "capitalist society" that income is any kind of fit measure for a person's respectability. But then I've been reading moralistic 18th century novels for fun lately and obviously am a complete and utter anachronism in my unwillingness to buy into our materialist society's values.

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