It has long been obvious that culture is driving the debate on female ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Those who favor women's ordination are clustered in the developed world, which has adopted a policy of eradicating sex roles, even in traditionally male bastions such as police and fire departments, and the military. Those opposed to female ordination are primarily from areas of the world that either have not pursued a unisex agenda, or have not pursued it as remorselessly as we have in the developed world. That is why my first article on this issue, “The Adventist Arab Spring,” was about culture, specifically the Bible's patriarchal culture versus the post-patriarchal culture of the developed world.
The Sexual Revolution changed the culture of America and the developed world. Until about 45 years ago, America and much of the Western world enjoyed a basically Christian-Biblical sexual culture. Our society was basically patriarchal; men and women were understood to be very different, with well-defined, gender-specific sex roles. Marriage was intended to last for life, and those seeking to dissolve their marriages needed either their spouse’s consent or to rigorously prove a statutory ground of divorce, such as adultery, cruelty, or abandonment. Abortion was illegal, expensive and dangerous. Pornography was illegal; “stag films” existed underground, not as a multi-billion dollar above-the-counter business. Sodomy was illegal, and criminal laws against homosexual activity were often enforced. Intense social disapproval of unwed motherhood and illegitimate children discouraged out-of-wedlock heterosexual activity; when an unmarried girl was found to be pregnant, inquiries were made and a shotgun wedding was arranged. In summary, before the Sexual Revolution, created sex differences were acknowledged and given legal and social sanction, and sexual expression outside of marriage was discouraged by culture and by law.
But the Sexual Revolution of 1967-1973 changed all that. Society rejected the concept of distinct sex-roles in the workplace, and governments began to enforce gender neutrality in employment across a wide range of commercial, governmental and educational endeavor. Between 1967 and 1973, all 50 states adopted no fault divorce, meaning that either party could be granted a divorce without the consent of the other party, and without having to prove that the other party was as fault. In the late 1960s, a few jurisdictions began to liberalize their abortion laws, and in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court mysteriously found a theretofore unimagined constitutional right to abortion. Some 55 million babies have been aborted since Roe v. Wade. Most forms of pornography became legal as the Supreme Court subjected state obscenity laws to an expanded notion of freedom of speech. The gay rights movement started with the Stonewall Riots of 1969, and by the late 1970s, most municipalities had stopped enforcing sodomy laws and, although such laws were upheld in 1986, they were struck down as unconstitutional just 17 years later in Lawrence v. Texas. Last summer, the Supreme Court completed the gay rights revolution by finding a constitutional right of persons of the same sex to marry. Strong social disapproval of unwed motherhood began to dissipate (remember Murphy Brown?), and eventually the disapproval shifted onto those who condemn out-of-wedlock births. In short, society began to deny that there is any meaningful difference between men and women, and to desanction and eventually proscribe differing sex roles in the workplace, and ceased to discourage homosexual activity and extra-marital heterosexual activity.
It is not necessary to cite Scripture to show that our current sexual culture is far out of line with a biblical worldview. We have moved from a basically Christian sexual culture to a pagan, hedonistic view of sexuality. Yet those who are pushing for women's ordination are clearly motivated by the belief that one aspect of the new sexual order, the eradication of gender roles, is a good thing. To them, it is such a good thing that it effectively trumps the plain teaching of Scripture that leadership in the church is restricted to men (1 Tim. 2:11-3:7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Cor. 11:3; 14:34). The hermeneutical pretzel-twisting necessary to nullify these passages is motivated by the belief that gender role sameness (or gender role interchangeability) is such a boon, such common sense, such inevitable justice and fairness, that it must prevail in the church just as it has in the rest of Western society.
Those in favor of female ordination argue that the patriarchal culture described in the Bible is descriptive only, not prescriptive. In “The Adventist Arab Spring” I argued that patriarchy is both strongly endorsed by Scripture and in sharp conflict with our current post-patriarchal (post-Sexual Revolution) sexual culture. In this article, I want to examine post-patriarchal culture from a different angle, namely, how well it functions in encouraging procreation.
In both a Darwinistic and a biblical worldview, the purpose of sex is reproduction. In Darwinism, virtually everything in life, human life as well as animal, is an epiphenomenon of getting an organism's genes into the next generation. See, e.g., Richard Dawkins’ “The Selfish Gene.” Survival and reproduction are the definition of evolutionary success, whereas not surviving long enough to reproduce is the definition of evolutionary failure. In the biblical worldview, we are commanded to “be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28) and children are seen as a blessing from God (Gen. 33:5; Deut. 7:14; 28:4, 11; Psalm 127:3-5; 113:9; 128:1-6; Prov. 17:6; John 16:21; 1 Tim. 2:15; 5:14). A recurring scriptural motif is the faithful but barren woman who, in answer to her prayers and through God's power, is made fertile (Gen. 18:9-15; 21:1-6; 30:1-22; Judges 13; 1 Sam. 1:1-20; Luke 1:5-25). So in both an atheistic and a biblical worldview, the ultimate point of sex is to have a future for the race and for society. We can rejoice in this rare moment when two otherwise opposing, inimical worldviews agree, and judge post-patriarchal culture by their shared criterion: fertility.
So how is the new sexual culture faring with regard to reproduction? The Sexual Revolution was largely about legitimating sexual expression that does not lead to reproduction. Pornography, which has exploded in the past 45 years, and become ubiquitous on the Internet during the past decade, is, to be blunt, a masturbatory aid. It exists to facilitate what Ellen White called the sin of “self-abuse,” once referred to as “Onanism” (Gen. 38:8-10). The normalization of homosexuality encourages sexual acts and outlets that do not lead to reproduction. And abortion is the termination of a life that has already been conceived and is developing in the womb.
Unlike with homosexuality, pornography, and abortion, the anti-reproductive aspects of no-fault divorce are not obvious and do require a brief explanation. The power players in the marriage game are young, nubile women and older, financially successful men. The weaker players are younger men and older women. Although it isn't as relevant to the fertility issue, under the regime of no fault divorce an older wife cannot prevent her husband from casting her off in favor of a younger “trophy wife.” The law will protect her financially, but not from such negative intangibles as loss of companionship (she has a lower chance of remarrying), social standing, and being able to share and enjoy the later years—with their social recognition, leisure, and travel—of the man she married young and helped make into a success.
Now consider the plight of the younger man, who marries and fathers children. Should his wife become unhappy and want a divorce, he cannot legally prevent it, even if he is innocent of adultery, cruelty, abandonment, and the other traditional grounds for divorce. He is unlikely to be awarded custody of the children, and will be stuck with child support payments and possibly alimony. The no-fault regime makes the husband and father legally vulnerable until his children are all in their early 20s; he could be financially and emotionally wiped out at any time. For a young husband, no-fault divorce turns fatherhood into a fool's errand that he would be well advised to avoid. Clearly, the legal regime of no-fault divorce is not only anti-patriarchal, but directly anti-fatherhood.
Even worse is the plight of the younger woman who wants to be a wife and a mother. Post-patriarchal culture is zealously (I would say maniacally) eradicating all traditional gender roles, and looks down on the young woman who places motherhood and family above career. In my parents' generation, it was not unusual for couples to get married right after high school; in cases where they married in college, it was not unusual for the wife to drop out of work and put the husband through school or to start having children in her early twenties (as my mother did—she went back to school and completed her degree 20 years later). Today, young women are expected to pursue career as single-mindedly as young men.
But here's the rub: a woman can bear children from about age 15 through about age 45; if she stays in school and does not marry through college (graduating at about age 22) graduate school or law school (25) or medical school and internship (27), and then pursues, say, a law partnership (32) or a medical practice (33), she will not be ready to marry and have children until her mid-30s. But a pregnancy at age 35 and older is considered a “geriatric pregnancy” with heightened medical risks; the chances of having a child with a genetic abnormality such as Downs' Syndrome, or a medical complication difficult for the older young woman to recover from, rise steadily until menopause. It is a very poor reproductive strategy to put off pregnancy for the first 20 years (two thirds) of a woman's fertile lifetime, hoping for a successful pregnancy in the medically much riskier final third. And yet this is the strategy our culture relentlessly pushes on young women.
In a functioning patriarchal society, when a woman becomes pregnant, she reduces or ceases her participation in the money economy, and her husband increases his participation. He earns more and provides for her and their children; he is the provider. These traditional sex roles are not a conspiracy against women; to the contrary, they are designed to arrange society to conform to a woman’s inherently heightened need for economic security during her child-bearing years. Despite all the sex-role propaganda of recent decades, a girl still wants to marry a guy who is wealthy, or at least earns more than she does. (“50 Shades of Gray” spawned a whole chick-lit genre of fantasy billionaire boy-friends with six-pack abs, but there is no corresponding literature for men featuring well-endowed billionaire girlfriends.)
But here’s the problem: If women pursue education and career as remorselessly as men, they will earn as much or more than men. And the more a woman earns, the less likely she is to find a candidate for marriage who earns more than she does. If she holds out for the ideal mate, she may pass through her child-bearing years as a single woman. If you take a look at Internet dating sites, you might be shocked at the number of well educated, beautiful, 40-something women who have never been married. A highly educated and successful acquaintance of mine—one of the most beautiful women I have ever known—confided that when she realized she would never bear a child, she “cried for about two months.” Because women derive enormous meaning and satisfaction from their nurturing role as mothers, it was once viewed as a tragedy for a woman to become an “old maid,” going through her fertile years without marriage and children. The eradication of traditional gender roles is not, despite the promises, engendering greater happiness for the fair sex.
Assuming all these obstacles are overcome and a happy marriage is contracted, today's conception of marriage is not about procreation. Traditionally, marriage was understood to be about forming a permanent bond, a structure in which to conceive, bear, rear, educate, and socialize the next generation of human beings. Love and romance were involved, but their purpose was to help form the stable bond. Marriage required both a man and a woman, not only because a couple of the same sex cannot naturally conceive a child, but also because to properly raise a child requires both the male and the female parental figure. Mothers are naturally nurturing, and because of the exclusivity of marriage, the father would know that her children were his flesh and blood, and he would work and sacrifice to give them every advantage in life. Marriage is necessary to society because there is no conceivable combination of state bureaucracies that can substitute for a loving father and mother.
Here again the Sexual Revolution changed something fundamental. Instead of being largely about duty and responsibility, marriage came to be viewed as solely about love, romance, and self-fulfillment. These had been the sweetener of traditional marriage, but in today's hedonistic conception of marriage, they're not just the sugar but also the cereal, milk, bowl and spoon. They are the whole thing. Well, if marriage is only about romantic and sexual fulfillment, and not about children and society, why shouldn't it be extended to people who are fulfilled by someone of their own sex? Why restrict it to opposite sex couples? A legally necessary premise of the Supreme Court’s discovery, last year, of a previously unsuspected right of persons of the same sex to marry is that there can be no rational governmental purpose for restricting marriage to a man and a woman. According to our oracles on the SCOTUS, no rational state legislature could possibly believe that procreation is an important part of the reason for marriage. Per our self-appointed philosopher-king, Anthony Kennedy, only a crazy person could believe that marriage is, or should be, a procreative institution.
Sadly, reality matches legal theory. Today, there is little connection between marriage and procreation. Given an illegitimacy rate of 40%, a child born in the United States is only a little more likely to be born into a marriage than out of one (and a black or Hispanic child will likely be born out-of-wedlock). Ironically, the absolute number of illegitimate births is falling, and has been falling for five straight years; the illegitimacy rate continues to rise because the birthrate among married women is falling even faster than among the unmarried.
And that brings us to the bottom line: all these anti-fertility changes to the sexual constitution have finally brought about a culture that does not reproduce itself. In order to replace the population, the average woman needs to bear two children. (The total fertility rate [TFR] actually needs to be slightly higher than two, around 2.1, to make up for pre-reproduction deaths.) The United States has not enjoyed a TFR of 2.1 since 2007. The most recent statistics (2013) show a TFR of 1.86. We are no longer replacing our population, and the rest of the developed world is in the same boat. Here is a list of developed world TFRs:
Czech Republic 1.5
Slovak Republic 1.3
United Kingdom 1.9
In the developed world, only Iceland, Ireland, France, and New Zealand are clinging to a near-replacement birthrate of 2.0, and only Israel has a birthrate (3.0) that will lead to population growth.
The European race in Europe and North America seems to have decided to extinguish itself by failure to reproduce at replacement rates. To visualize how rapidly Greece's total fertility rate, 1.3, will empty out a nation, consider that 100 grandparents will have a total of 42 grandchildren. In two generations the population will be less than half what it was two generations before. Last year, the Greeks were finding it difficult to borrow against their future, because they don’t have a future. There will always be a landmass protruding from southeastern Europe into the Mediterranean Sea, but the Greek people are doomed unless they start having more babies.
All population growth in the developed world for the past decade or more has come from immigration. (The United States accepts over a million legal immigrants a year, in addition to at least 300,000 illegal immigrants a year.) And the immigrants are younger than the native population, which means that these total fertility rates, which range from troubling to catastrophic, are masking rapid underlying demographic shifts. For example, since 2011, births to non-Hispanic whites have made up less than fifty percent of all births in the United States; this is because Hispanics are in their child-bearing years (median age 28) and whites (median age 42) are aging out of their child-bearing years. In about 25 years, non-Hispanic whites will no longer compose a majority of the population of the United States. With luck, the United States will evolve into something like Argentina or Chile. But what of Europe, where the immigrants are mostly from Muslim countries? Will Europe still be Europe when its people hold a religio-political ideology that militantly rejects European values?
The post-patriarchal culture of the developed world promotes every kind of sex except the kind that results in children. As judged by a standard endorsed both by evolutionary theory and the Biblical worldview—reproductive success—post-patriarchal culture is a failure. It is a culture of hedonistic indulgence and rebellion against created sex-role distinctions, and it does not work at the most fundamental biological level. It is a dead end.
Last year at San Antonio, the delegates from the First World asked the delegates from the Third World to allow the un-biblical practice of female headship to come into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And for what? To bow to a failed culture of death.