11/25/2013

A Design Flaw

I was conversing over on NLQ with a woman about the issue of women in the military, and whether or not they should be in combat. Since it is my view that women shouldn’t be in the military at all, I don’t really have a dog in that hunt. I was primarily there to correct a false impression that some seemed to have, namely that Ladies Against Feminism, and people like myself, were Ok with women in the military, just not ok with them being in combat.

That was an insane position, the people at NLQ said, and I agree.

But my position, per the NLQ folks, is even more insane. I don’t believe that women should be in the military at all. Not in combat, not in non-combat.  I believe that women should be keepers at home, wives and mothers, not fooling around in combat boots or MASH units.

My position is based on the idea that God has designed women to be wives and mothers. That that was the point of their original creation.

My position was received with unmixed incredulity, but one woman posed a particularly insightful question. Not exactly posed as a question, but I’ll take it as such:

So... God designed women to do something that only a subset of women have done in all of recorded history? A contradictory record which includes the book on which you base your belief in that design?
That's... some really bad engineering there.

When I get a question, or an insightful comment, that is representative of a whole host of similar questions of comments, I like to make it into a full post. That way I can do a full job of answering it, and give a location for post-comments that focuses specifically on the issue concerned.

Before we move on to the logical and theological issues here I think it would be good to deal with a linguistic issue. There is kind of a trick statement in the middle of this ‘question’. She uses the phrase ‘only a subset’. Now, as someone who grew up with what was euphemistically called ‘the new math’ some forty odd years ago I am familiar with the term ‘subset’. And she uses it very accurately here.

But unfortunately the use here leaves a connotation floating around that is not justified by the words. Let us be clear. All of something is a subset of it. An odd subset, granted, but a subset. At the same time, 99.9% of something is subset of it. So the phrase ‘only a subset’ is really not a helpful phrase.

We know what she means, of course. At least, we have two possibilities. One possibility, the most sneaky, is that she means ‘less then 100%’. That would fit with what is called a ‘proper subset’. Under this definition if only one woman, ever, on the entire planet, failed to fulfill her Biblical role this would mean that ‘only a subset’ of women filled their role.

What the term implies, however, to the casual ear, is ‘less then half’. That is not a correct use of the term, of course, but it is what the words ‘only’ and ‘subset’ go together to produce as an impression. A similar term would be ‘only a fraction’… which is, mathematically, a meaningless term since all numbers are fractions of some sort.

So now she and I, if we are to have a factual discussion, need to argue over whether she meant ‘all’ or ‘some’. Throughout history have a majority of women fulfilled *all* of the role they were designed for as women? No. In fact I think the number there would be zero. No Earthly woman has ever fulfilled all, 100%, every single jot and tittle, of her role as a woman. Catholics would have us believe Mary did, but I am a protestant so I am not required to believe that impossible statement.

But if she means ‘some’ surely she cannot be serious. Surely she cannot be suggesting that the majority of women never fulfilled any of their designed role at all? That they were never obedient to their husbands and fathers, that they never fulfilled their sexual role, that they never bore any children, never trained those children, never kept the house, were never modest in their dress, etc. Etc. Surely it would be an amazing feat for any woman to have succeeded in failing at all of that all the time for their entire life? I mean, unless they were murdered in the womb, and even then, well, God knows.

But let us take her at the core of what might have been her meaning.[1] Let us take the basic ‘wife and mother and keeper at home’ role. Does she really think that, throughout history, the majority of women have been non-wives, non-mothers, and non-keepers at home? If so I think she is rather ignorant of history and demographics.

But, leaving aside which of the various things she could have meant her let us deal with her point. If even one woman, at one time in history, failed to perfectly fulfill her role is that an indication of a design flaw?

That depends. You see the word ‘design’ when applied to a human being means something different than when we apply it to an inanimate object, let’s say a shovel.

If I try to dig with a shovel and I can’t dig, that may well be a design flaw. If I am digging in the proper material (and not, say, cement, for which the shovel wasn’t designed), and using the shovel in the proper fashion (not holding it upside down or sideways, etc.) and it won’t dig… or even if a proper subset of shovels won’t dig, then that shovel has, indeed, been badly designed. Did the shovel break when I tried to dig nice soft soil? Then perhaps the materials are at fault. Did the little put-your-foot-here thingy cut my foot? Then that part was not well designed (or I should have been wearing shoes).

So the rule is that we say something was poorly designed when we used it right, but it didn’t work as advertised. But a human being is a little different. The human being is both the object designed, and the one ‘using’ the object. So the ‘design’ issue suddenly has two facets where we only had one before.

If we were robots then these would both need to function ‘according to design’. The woman designed for being a wife-mother-keeper at home would have to marry, bear children, and keep at home in order to live up to her design. A failure in any of these would, indeed, be a ‘design flaw’.


But theology in general has separated these two. The woman, in body and nature, may have been designed to be a marvelous wife-mother-keeper at home… yet can still choose not to do any of those things. Regardless of which theory on the human will you accept, theologically, (Calvinism or Arminianism or some theory in between) they all include the idea that there is such a thing as ‘disobedience’ or ‘rebellion’ which is not a design flaw, but a ‘feature’ ( to use computer language). God did not design us as robots, so we cannot hold our design to that.

Indeed the doctrine of sin teaches us that our perfect design has become corrupted by our rebellion so that even if we should wish, in our human nature, to be the perfect wife-mother-keeper at home (or husband-father-sitter in the gates) we will be unable to. As Paul puts it:

Rom 7:14-25 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.


So even the most willing of human beings will find themselves incapable of fulfilling God’s perfect plan for their lives: not because of some flaw in the design of women, but because of sin.

The amazing thing is that, despite of sin, the overwhelming majority of women over time have tended towards Gods design for their lives. Even women who work often complain about how difficult it is to go home and keep up their house. They still recognize this responsibility. Even the career woman often speaks, out loud or in the depths of her own soul, about how her biological clock is ticking.

Truth be told this is in some senses self-fulfilling. The society where the woman does not fulfill her design is a society that dies… literally. In order to survive the average woman, with today’s health care, must have at least 2.2 children. For every woman that fails to reproduce, for whatever reason, that number goes up for the remainder.

If we use a shovel to hit someone over the head and they die, this is not a design flaw of the shovel. Indeed, if they don’t die, that is still not a design flaw of the shovel. The Nun, the working woman, the soldier woman, the Sodomite woman… none of these are design flaws. They are perversions based upon choice. A choice rooted in sin, in rebellion against God.

And yet despite that sin, despite that rebellion, most shovels still get used to dig, and most women have chosen to be wives and mothers. Woe betide us if they hadn’t.

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[1] In response on NLQ she states:
I meant that some women are not wives or mothers or in the home, some are wives but neither mothers nor in the home, that some are wives and mothers but STILL not In the home, that some are in the home but not mothers. I meant that human history would not be what it is without women inventing and without women working the farms and fields and support jobs. That not even the Bible shows women 100% as wives and mothers and in the home and does not condemn the judges and the warrior queens and the woman at the feet of Christ."

She states that I knew that, which I not only deny but I defy anyone to get all of that out of her simple statement. I would also ask who the 'warrior queen' was in Scripture. I must have missed that story.
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