Many books have been published in recent years looking at life from a feminist perspective. Generally, we do not read or discuss books of this sort, but for the next three weeks we want to reply to a thesis set forth by Riane Eisler in her 1987 book, The Chalice and the Blade.
Why? The reasons are threefold. First, although it may be unfamiliar to most of us, her book has nevertheless achieved a certain amount of popularity. In addition to the book, one may buy a taped version read by the author herself. Also, a study guide may be ordered so that groups of people can study the work together (say in a college course, perhaps!).
The second reason is that the book contains the endorsement of various journals and an array of scholars. Ashley Montagu (one of the foremost evolutionists of our day), for example, calls it "the most important book since Darwin's Origin of the Species." He adds: "I have never before praised a book so highly."
The third (and most important reason) is that the book is anti-Biblical and anti-Christianity. The reader could not imagine how far a community of evolutionists will go to try and discredit the Bible.
The book deals fundamentally with the relationship of men and women, arguing that in ancient times the two sexes existed in harmony and equality--and that such conditions can be and are on the verge of being restored today (if religion would only get out of the way).
The book's strength will be listed first (since it won't take long): scholarship. No one can look at the notes, see the vast amount of source material at the author's disposal, and remain unimpressed. She is well-studied, and she documents nearly everything she says.
The reader may well ask at this point, "Then how can what she writes be refuted?" Please be assured that a rejection of her theories is not done carelessly. But we need to realize two things about "scholarly works." The first is that the researcher begins with his or her own set of presuppositions (such as a rejection of God and an embracing of evolution, as in this case), which can easily alter one's objectivity.
The second is that her theories are drawn from a few loosely woven facts, which are interpreted by her and others to mean what they wish. Many of us learned years ago with the highly subjective Passover Plot to beware of "perhapses," "maybes," and "we must assumes." No one is disputing the factual evidence Riane brings to light--only her interpretation of those facts.
In a nutshell, Eisler believes that in prehistoric times, men and women lived in relationships in which they shared work and responsibilities, worshiped "the Goddess," and experienced peace, all of which are symbolized by the chalice. Then the blade was invented; men began to worship its power (xvii), and women became dominated (which has continued until this century).
The author wants no misunderstanding; she is not one of those feminist man-haters. She concedes (oh, so graciously), that the problem is not men as a sex.
The root of the problem lies in a social system in which the power of the Blade is idealized--in which both men and women are taught to equate true masculinity with violence and dominance. . . . (xviii).
Shame on Rambo. Although the author makes a good, idealistic point, she does not prescribe a means of dealing with other people's aggressiveness. Do we all just yield to the Saddam Husseins of this world? Or should we forbid women to be mothers and send them out to fight, while the men stay home? She seems to ignore the fact that in general men are tougher physically.
The Chalice and the Blade purports to show "the story of how the original partnership direction of Western culture veered off into a bloody five-thousand year dominator detour" (xxiii). Statements like these are difficult to accept from one who claims to be an evolutionist. How can evolution veer off course? If God does not exist, THERE IS NO COURSE!! Whatever happens happens; whatever is is right. How can evolution make a mistake or get sidetracked? Evolution contains no standards. If women are raped, subjugated, and treated worse than animals, that's just tough. Why didn't women evolve stronger muscles to fight off Neanderthal men? Does not evolution preach "the survival of the fittest"?
The only way anything can veer off course is if there was a course to begin with. In fact, that is precisely what happened, and you can read about it in Romans 1:18-32. "Although they knew God. . . . " (Romans 1:21). They knew Him! Man was not ignorant of the existence of God from the very beginning. They knew Him. They knew His standards, too.
Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Rom. 1:21-22).
They "did not like to retain God in their knowledge" (28), and they "exchanged the truth of God for the lie" (25). That's when idolatry began, which resulted in the worship of the "goddess."
Man cannot escape evolution's morality--it possesses none; but man can and did depart from God's Divine judgments and precepts. If everyone in the world practiced the love taught in the New Testament, there would never be a need for war. Armies would grow obsolete if we all practiced patience and kindness. But man rejected God's way of living, and this earth will never again be the Paradise it once was. Anyone who thinks we are nearing a peaceful coexistence is dreaming.
The author attempts to prove that men and women were complete equals in the distant, prehistoric past. She launches her efforts by tediously recounting what archaeologists have recovered and what the significance of those findings is. She talks about figurines of females (1, 8), rock painting (3), and various other artifacts. The conclusion is that early in man's existence (and remember she possesses the evolutionary view) "God was a woman" (12). Moreover, there appears to be an absence of fortifications and weaponry, which indicate peaceful peoples (13).
The next two chapters continue with this theme. She describes murals, statues, and figurines of what she calls "the Goddess, whose body is the divine Chalice containing the miracle of birth" (19). She asserts "the Goddess appears to have been originally worshiped in all agricultural societies" (21). Thus, whenever and wherever this Goddess is worshiped, society is peaceful, and men and women coexist as equals. The author describes it as "a partnership society in which neither half of humanity is ranked over the other and diversity is not equated with inferiority and superiority" (28).
The careful reader will notice the use of phrases such as "appears to" (as used above) and "seems to have" (20) or "one possible explanation" (21). In other words, when the author describes what archaeologists have found, she is dealing with hard, physical evidence. When she begins to interpret what those figurines mean, then she is speculating. But a further question: How do we know that archaeologists have "dug up" all that there is to find?
On February 23, 1993, the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel published a story, in which archaeologist Manfred Korfmann acknowledged that Troy (the site of the Trojan War, about which Homer wrote in The Iliad), was much larger "than previously believed, including fortifications, palaces, and cemeteries" (4H). The city was first excavated in 1871; Korfmann began his work in 1988. They have just recently discovered that there is more to the city than they ever thought before!
Therefore, Eisler cannot know that all the evidence around which she constructs her theories has yet been recovered. Additional information might cause her to backtrack on some of her conclusions. Who knows? Something could be discovered fifty years from now that could clearly contradict her current theory.
Eisler lauds the lack of war that existed on the island of Crete and the accompanying glorification of the flesh. "The bare-breasted style of dress for women and the skimpy clothes emphasizing the genitals for men demonstrate a frank appreciation of sexual differences and pleasure made possible by these differences" (39).
Who can believe it? The author's description sounds amazingly like that of a public beach frequented by lust-laden college students on spring break. For her information, women in Africa still walk around bare-breasted; they are not, however, considered men's equals.
She continues by stating that the Cretans had a more natural attitude toward sex. One can't help wondering if they also had natural diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea like their modern hedonistic counterparts get? She then quotes Hawkes as concluding: "The Cretans seem to have diverted their aggressiveness through a free and well-balanced sexual life" (39). The key phrase is "seem to have." Again, how many of these sexual conclusions about the Cretans are simply guesswork?
Most evolutionists fail to have much regard for the Bible, and Eisler is no exception. She is familiar enough with the Bible to be hostile towards it. Consider some of her comments.
The Bible tells of a garden where woman and man lived in harmony with each other and nature--before a male god decreed that woman henceforth be subservient to man (xv).
Isn't it odd that, in a book so highly documented, the author could not give one single reference to support the above assertions? The first quote above neglects to mention the woman's leading her husband into sin (Gen. 3:1-6), for which God designated him as the leader henceforth in the home (Gen. 3:16) and later in the church (1 Tim. 2:11-14).
As to the third quotation, who are these religious leaders who are only interested in the ability of women to bear male children (rather a self-defeating philosophy, in the long run)? And what scientists have echoed these sentiments? Such is truly preposterous!
"As we can still read in the Bible, the Hebrews, and later also the Christians and Muslims, razed temples, cut down sacred groves of trees, and smashed pagan idols" (83). Can it be that the author is defending paganism over Christianity? What other conclusions can be drawn from statements like these?
Imagine anyone upholding the groves, the temples, the idols of pagans, or religions that advocated the burning alive of infants as sacrifices and sanctioned sexual promiscuity!
And then after bemoaning the fact that these things were eradicated, she has the gall to denounce Judaism and Christianity! What is so glorious about those days of ignorance that the author exalts heathen practices so highly? It's about like someone today watching television and listening to the radio, using the microwave, the hair dryer, etc., and then sobbing about how the days before electricity were so much better. If Eisler is so charmed by pagan cultures, there are still a few around in Africa; let her leave the comfort of the United States and the benefits of a Christian-influenced society and live with the pagans back in the bush country. If she's not made the main course at dinner, maybe she can enlighten us further about such paradises.
God commanded the destruction of the Canaanites because of their grievous sins. In granting them time to repent (which they failed to do), He allowed His own people to suffer slavery in Egypt (Gen. 15:13-16).
The author seems to think that everyone ought to live by the secular humanist philosophy that everything is right. "I'm okay, you're okay." We can agree to disagree. All types of thinking should be allowed--except the philosophy of Christianity. Everybody should be able to make up and live by his own value system--except Christians!! We non-Christians don't like those values--particularly the ones governing sex--they ought not to be allowed.
But God's value system is based on reality and truth. When men become objectively corrupt, He destroys them (the Flood). When nations become perverted, He destroys them (Canaan, Assyria, Babylon, and even His own people Israel). If Ms. Eisler cannot understand how God punishes evil nations for their sins, she will really have trouble with the day of judgment--when God casts the ungodly into hell for eternity (Matt. 25:46).
*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "THE EQUALITY OF MEN AND WOMEN (PART 1) (2/9/97)."