Thursday, December 07, 2006

Knox on Deborah

Been meaning to post this.

Back in October, I preached on the presentation of Deborah in Judges 4, rejecting the naïve interpretation of Deborah as a proto-feminist (listen to the sermon, Deborah: Feminist Icon or Reluctant Leader?).

In the days after the message, I read the great Scottish Reformer John Knox’s "The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women" (read it here) in which he rejects women as rulers in home, church, or, state. His polemic was aimed at his nemesis, Queen Mary ("that cursed Jezebel").

"The First Blast" was part one of an intended three part series that was never completed. Knox presented part one as an anonymous work fearing arrest for treason, but he intended to reveal his name after publication of the third blast.

This work is certainly no favorite of feminists.

At the close, Knox anticipates objections to his argument, noting that his opponents will be quick to raise the example of Deborah as a woman in civil leadership in Scripture.

How does Knox respond? First, he notes that the story of Deborah (and also Huldah) is really about the sovereignty of God. The Deborah account does not establish a "common law" but, "The causes were known to God alone, why he took the spirit of wisdom and force from all men of those ages; and did mightily assist women against nature, and against his ordinary course…. With these women, I say, did God work potently and miraculously; yea to them he gave most singular grace and privilege."

He continues, "For God (being free) may, for such causes are approved by his inscrutable wisdom, dispense with the rigors of his law, and may use his creatures at his pleasure. But the same power is not permitted to man…."

According to Knox God raised up Deborah to expose the spiritual weakness of Israel’s men: He did so partly "to advance and notify the power of his majesty" and "partly he did it to confound and shame all men of that age, because they had for the most part declined from his true obedience. And therefore was the spirit of courage, regiment, and boldness taken from them for a time to their confusion and further humiliation."

He further notes the humility of Deborah’s leadership, that "she usurps to herself neither power nor authority…. No she spoils herself of no power to command, attributing that authority to God."
What would Knox say about the lack of gender role distinction in contemporary society?


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