Butker, Southern Baptists, and the “Woman Question”

May 31, 2024 by David Fowler

Butker, Southern Baptists, and the “Woman Question”
If you don’t know Kansas City Chiefs placekicker Harrison Butker was embroiled in controversy after voicing his beliefs regarding the “What is a woman” question, then maybe you’ve read about the question coming to the fore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in June. I thought I’d wade into the issue with a different initial question: “Are women human?”
That question is not original to me. Rather, it was asked by Dorothy L. Sayers and was the title of her address to a women’s society in 1938. Miss Sayers was a Christian and respected novelist who earned a degree in medieval literature with first honors from Oxford in 1915.
Getting the Context for the “Equality Question” Right.
Speaking to this group of women, Sayers said:
We have, I think, allowed ourselves to drift into asserting that “a woman is as good as a man,” without always pausing to think what exactly we mean by that.
Her observation about the state of critical thinking seems appropriate to our day as well.
She continued:
[It is] not that every woman is, in virtue of her sex, as strong, clever, artistic, level-headed, industrious and so forth as any man that can be mentioned; but, that a woman is just as much an ordinary human being as a man, with the same individual preferences, and with just as much right to the tastes and preferences of an individual.
She follows with this keen observation: “What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not an individual person” (emphasis supplied).
Sayers’s Thesis About Women
Sayers’s thesis was that men are usually considered as individuals having greater freedom respecting their interests, but women tend to be considered only as a class, as “women,” rather than individual human beings standing on their own two feet.
For example, she notes there is nothing about being a woman that, as part of a class of beings, would disqualify her from having an interest in studying medieval literature. And there is nothing about C.S. Lewis as a man and part of the class of beings called men that would give him a leg up on Miss Sayers in grasping knowledge about medieval literature. Knowledge of medieval literature is human knowledge available to all who want to study it—it’s not a man or woman thing.
When men treat women as less than human, society gets a lot of angry women,[i] and rightly so.
Is the Foregoing All That We Can Say About a Woman?
It depends. If there is no God, there is no given, transcendent meaning to anything. Human meaning vanishes.
If this view of the cosmos is true, all meaning is made up, and we can change what a woman is and what women are as we will. That’s why some understandably can’t say what a woman is.
Of course, all sane persons admit that biological differences make men and women complementary in fact as regards procreation, but as a matter of principle and as to human meaning, those differences only have such meaning as we give them.
Complementariness is an important concept because it was a buzz word among conservative Southern Baptists leading up to the Convention.
Where I Part Ways with Complementariness
Because the preceding view of reality is increasingly dominant, I am increasingly cautious as a Christian about asserting complementarianism as explanatory of the difference between a man and woman and between men and women as classes of being.
For example, apart from procreation, a particular man can complement a particular woman in ways different from the way that same man would complement a different woman and vice versa.
In other words, complementariness without more begs the question Sayers posed: In what context are we complementary? 
I, for one, refuse to reduce human meaning to the complementarian differences between the two biological sexes and let me begin to explain why.
It begins with the fact that I, along with all Christians, believe there is a God who created all things with a being distinct from His being but upon which all forms of being are dependent for their being and continuation in being. Those who don’t believe this are not Christians but pantheists.
Therefore, as a matter of logic, not to mention Scriptural affirmation, I believe God, as Creator, has the final say on what a woman is  and that turns on two things: what kind of being a woman is – clearly human – but also what she was created for. The same is true for what it means to be a man.
The problem with men and women, including many Christians, is we aren’t thankful for what God created us for and go off in search of what we think will be better or make more sense. We love being wise in our own eyes!
Dare Christians Give Men and Women the Context God Gives Them?
The Bible is remarkably clear that creation is foremost a revelation of who God is. Today we tend to think it is foremost about us.
It is also remarkably clear that if the affections, thinking, and consequent will of all human beings had not been misdirected away from God by their human representative, Adam, that revelation would be clear to us (Psalm 19, Romans 1:18-21). In other words, absent that, we would know God. We would also know what kind of beings we are and what our kind of being is for.
This, of course, harkens back to the opening narrative in the Bible about what transpired in God’s work of creation and in the Garden of Eden.
But skipping forward a few thousand years, God, like a master playwright, pulls back the curtain of the unfolding human drama He’s written about Himself for the sake of our good.[ii]  
What We Learn About God from the Drama He’s Written
What we learn about the Dramatist from His drama is what we might have understood from watching the first scene in which He created Adam and Eve but for the fact we “inherited” from them their misdirected affections, thinking, and will.
In other words, absent this misdirection, I suspect Adam and Eve would have come to understand from the way God created them that He was revealing the triune nature of His being – a being that is one in essence but with a distinction of persons.
That explains why God created Eve from Adam and not separately out of the dust as Adam had been. In this, God is depicting Himself to us as a unity of being (e.g., man and woman are both human) but with a distinction of persons (e.g., there is a “class” within the unity of being human called man and woman).
But is this a distinction without a difference beyond mere biology? Is it without additional meaning?
No. Adam and Eve together constitute a kind of organism, a human organism whose constitutive parts as man and woman and men and women fit harmoniously within in the larger autobiographical drama.
In the creation of them, a social organism was created in an embryonic fashion, and, like other living organisms, it would grow, i.e., expand beyond the two of them. 
Now, we understand why the Dramatist told the actors to be fruitful and multiply. There is meaning beyond the mere number of actors who will be introduced into the drama.
Then, a few scenes later, we learn that each of the divine persons who, together, constitute the Dramatist’s one essential being has a different function in the ordering of what the Drama is revealing about Him. There is a distinct kind of work attributed to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Similarly, within the human organism, each man and woman contributes something important to the drama personally and as categories or classes of being – men and women.
Recall that Miss Sayers never denied that women are “a member of a class.” She only insisted that they should not “always” be treated as such.
In sum, as the parts of a flower work together to make for a beautiful, God-glorifying blossom, each man and woman and men and women as categories of beings were created to harmoniously blossom into a beautiful society such as exists within the Triune God and, as such, could enjoy personal and corporate fellowship with Him.
I will stop here and simply add that any view of the human drama that does not consider human beings in relation to what they, individually and collectively, are created to reveal about the Triune God will distort the autobiographical nature of the drama. 
The actors – past, present, and future – who do not take this view will never understand why and in what way the only begotten Son of the Father revealed in the person of Jesus is both the center of and defining character for everything in the entire drama. For them, it will just be an endless stream of scenes going nowhere and telling no story.
The good news is that the Triune Dramatist who, because He exists independent of time and space, has written the play out to the final scene, just as all dramatists do. All the subplots of the dramas of human life are played out within the context of the larger one which will turn out perfectly and finally make sense to everybody.
In the final scene, the revelation will be complete, the drama over, and all those actors who are friends of the Triune Dramatist will enjoy an everlasting after party with Him.
[i] Ironically, today’s angry women treat women as a class and less than human. That’s why they hate the stay-at-home moms Butker’s comments extoling the virtues of motherhood. They’ve become what they once loathed and condemned.
[ii] The drama God recorded in His Book is real – it has real actors – but it has real, objective meaning precisely because it is, as we might say, autobiographical. It may be told like a myth, but unlike self-refuting human myths such as evolution, this one is real, based on a real person, and is autobiographical, not ideological.

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