Todd Weber's Random Thoughts

March 12, 2008

Refuting Ruth Rieder-Harvey

Power Before the Throne, by Ruth Rieder-Harvey

A Book Review by Todd K. Weber   

       I appreciate and respect Ruth Rieder-Harvey’s love for God and zeal for holiness.  There is no doubt that living in holiness is an essential element of a right relationship with God.  We live in a fallen world that is horribly corrupted by sin.  Jesus Christ has provided humanity a way of escape from sin, and when a person is saved by the new birth experience, their life should be transformed into a holy instrument of godliness, free from the controlling power of sin, for this is the will of God and the work of His grace.  The main focus of this review is to address subject matter in the book which is both unbiblical and potentially harmful.  I am surprised and disappointed that such a spurious and harmful doctrine is earnestly propagated in books, articles and conferences.  I have waited patiently for some respected voice to speak up on this, but to my knowledge none have.           

Guardians of the Glory? 

The real trouble begins on page 55, with the chapter heading: “Guardians of the Glory.”  I quote:            

 “The cherubim, one of the angelic orders, seem to be particularly assigned the responsibility of guarding the glory of God. The verses that place them beside the throne of God and ever on guard are Psalm 80:1, Psalm 99:1, and Isaiah 37:16. Thus, Lucifer, as the anointed cherub, was set forth as the chief guardian of the glory of God.”            

Since when does God need anyone or anything to guard His glory?  None of the verses cited state, either explicitly or implicitly, that cherubim – or anything else – guard the glory of God.  For one thing, who or what would they be guarding against?  And, is God not able to defend Himself?  Consider the following:             

 “The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works.”  (Psalm 104:31)            

 “For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.”  (Isaiah 48:11)             

When Lucifer rebelled, was it the angels who cast him out of heaven?  Of course not.  While the angels have served to guard various things, God’s glory is not, nor ever has been, their charge.  By itself, this point may not be worth debating.  However, it is used here as a basis for further distortions and misrepresentations; therefore, it is central to the issue and must be discussed.  The idea that God’s glory is so fragile and assailable as to require both angelic and human (namely, female) protection is ridiculous.  Even a cursory review of scriptures relating to the glory of God reveals that it is entirely God’s domain, and that He alone is the protector and preserver of it.  In fact, since God’s glory is intrinsic to His very nature; that is, you cannot separate God from His glory, nor His glory from Himself; it is impossible to tamper with the glory of God in any way, shape or form.  To corrupt God’s glory would be to corrupt God Himself, and since this can never be done, the point is erroneous. This seemingly innocuous misrepresentation of scripture becomes the foundation for the doctrinal house-of-cards erected throughout the remainder of the book.   From page 65 comes this disturbing section, following a quotation of Ezekiel 28:14, 16:            

“Lucifer’s main responsibility was as the covering cherub that guarded the glory of God.  When he was cast out, he lost his covering. God in His amazing and poetic nature delegated Lucifer’s lost estate to the woman. “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. But if a woman have long hair, it is a GLORY to her: for her hair is given her for a COVERING (1 Corinthians 11:10 and 15).  This issue of the hair is of major proportions. The enemy tempts women over and over to tamper with the covering because it symbolizes to him everything that he lost. When he sees a saint of God who is a guardian of the glory, he gnashes his teeth in frustration and anger…Women are now the “Guardians of the Glory.” As the aforementioned Scripture declares, it is a glory to the woman. The glory is not hers but is the glory of God residing upon her and in her life.” (Emphasis is Rieder‘s.) 

There are several points in this paragraph which need to be addressed as follows. 

1) Ezekiel 28 is addressed to the king (“prince,“ KJV) of the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre or Tyrus, on the Mediterranean coast.  This chapter is part of a series in which God declares His judgment against several heathen kings.  The King James syntax has led some to conclude this is a reference to Lucifer’s fall, but this is tenuous at best, and certainly not grounds upon which to build a doctrine.   

2) As previously stated, Lucifer was not responsible for guarding the glory of God.   

3) If Ezekiel 28 were a reference to Lucifer, then, when cast out of heaven he would not have lost his covering, but his position as the “covering cherub.”   

4) The Bible never in any place states or implies that God has “delegated Lucifer’s lost estate to the woman.”  That is utter nonsense. While the statement “because of the angels” is a point on which there is disagreement among Biblical scholars, there is certainly no basis for the author’s incredible assertions.    

5) The word “for” in 1 Corinthians 11:15 means “instead of,“ or “in place of;” thus, the woman’s hair is given to her “instead of a covering.“  (Strong’s Concordance #473: “‘anti,’ Meaning:  1) over against, opposite to, before 2) for, instead of, in place of (something) 2a) instead of 2b) for 2c) for that, because 2d) wherefore, for this cause“.)  This in itself turns Rieder-Harvey’s ideas on their head, so to speak.   

6) Saints of God, male or female, are not “guardians of the glory.”   

7) The author’s interpretation of “glory” is likewise faulty. Again, Strong’s Concordance, #1391: “‘doxa,’ Meaning:  1) opinion, judgment, view 2) opinion, estimate, whether good or bad concerning someone 2a) in the NT always a good opinion concerning one, resulting in praise, honour, and glory…” (The full meaning and use of the word is much more broad than this, but this definition is relevant to the context.)  The phrase, “It is a glory to her” means that it speaks well of her as a woman who is devoted to God.  Her hair is simply a symbol of her faith relationship – nothing more.              

The author continues to draw out her erroneous points in later paragraphs, and then makes this unfounded claim on page 67:            

“The woman’s hair is a type and shadow of the covering that Jesus provided for his church.”            

What is the basis for such a preposterous claim, other than her own imagination?  There is no such thing stated or implied anywhere in the Bible.   

Superstition and Magic 

On page 68, we find this statement:            

“When a woman cuts her hair, she actually severs the glory of God from her life. The angels will lift and depart, for they are committed to the glory.”            

This conclusion is based on her faulty interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:10, 15, as previously addressed.  First, a woman’s hair is not the “glory of God.”  Second, her hair is given her instead of a covering, which covering Rieder incorrectly associates with God’s glory. Third, our faith and attention should be directed to Jesus Christ, not angels.  While the Bible certainly reveals that angels are “ministering spirits,” our hope, confidence and security should be wholly in Christ alone.            

Also on page 68, the author claims that since the “armor of God” (presumably from Ephesians 6:11, although not stated) does not include protection for the back, God has provided such protection in a woman’s hair, based on Isaiah 58:8 (“…the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.”).  If this were true, then what about a man’s back?  Did God leave men vulnerable to attack from behind, but made women more secure?  Of course not.  Then she ties this idea to Titus 2:5 (“To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”) to make the point that women are “to be a guard that will beware of any evil that would try to come into your homes” (p. 69), followed by the statement, “Your uncut hair brings protection to your entire family” (p. 69).  In order to prove her point, the author relates a story involving a young married couple who were Bible school students.  Apparently, the husband committed adultery, and “their lives were shattered, and their ministry was completely ruined.”  This is alleged to have occurred as a result of the wife’s prior indiscretion of cutting her hair: “the spirit of vanity had caused her to become more concerned about the appearance of her split ends than about her obedience to God” (p. 69).              

This is irresponsible, manipulative and misleading.  It is one of several anecdotes which the author uses to give credence to her fallacious claims, which amount to nothing more than superstition, making female hair a sort of magic talisman to keep at bay the lurking evil spirits which would otherwise invade and take over the home and family, and against which men are otherwise powerless.  But wait, there’s more:              

“Can our husband’s hearts safely trust in us to guard the glory and to insure divine protection for our family so that no wicked spirit can enter in to spoil us?” (p. 70)            

“Can the Lord depend on you to guard the glory faithfully and diligently?” (p. 70)            

“Husbands are put there as a safeguard for the woman as she carries out this wondrously important duty that God has entrusted to her hands…guarding the glory and insuring divine protection for your family.” (p. 72, 73)            

This appears to be a new brand of feminism.  The author is promoting a pseudo-spiritual role-reversal under the pretense of preserving God-given roles outlined in the eleventh chapter of First Corinthians.  The contradiction is obvious.            

I am very disturbed by the author’s views noted above, and by the eager acceptance of them by many sincere believers.  Such doctrines turn our attention away from the efficacy and sufficiency of the blood and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and salvation by grace through faith, and instead move us toward superstition and cultic fanaticism.   

I wonder if such ideas stem from a sense of inferiority and/or inadequacy.  It seems to be an effort to elevate Christian women to a higher station than some may presently realize for themselves.  If Christian women lack a sense of meaning, purpose or privilege, it is not because the word of God denies it them.  It may, however, be the result of erroneous teaching and practice by spiritual leaders who manipulate God’s word to suit their own predisposition.  Clearly, God has given women a high and honorable role in the family, the church and the world, and equal claim to the divine gifts and calling as their male counterparts.  It is therefore not necessary, nor beneficial, to concoct erroneous theories and dogma in order to give Christian women a sense of empowerment.            

The great salvation received by way of sound Biblical doctrine is a wonderful thing which ought to be shouted from the rooftops all over the world, regardless of what others may think or say.  But, such error as found in Power Before The Throne hurts the cause of the gospel, and casts a shadow of careless Biblical exegesis and cultism upon many believers and churches.  Promoting such non-Biblical doctrines and misinterpretations erodes peoples’ confidence in both the truth and relevance of the Bible and in our ability to communicate it with integrity.  Any doctrine which cannot be solidly supported by scripture must be laid aside, lest we be found to add to or take away from God’s holy word.            

I do not doubt that Ruth Rieder-Harvey’s intentions are noble.  Nor do I question her sincere devotion to Jesus Christ.  However, it is disappointing and regretable that she feels it necessary to create such elaborate and fantastic interpretations of the scriptures in order to promote holiness and consecration to God among women.  I have not read the sequels to Power Before the Throne, but if they build on the ideas presented in this book, they will serve only to propagate the errors contained therein, and to turn the hope and confidence of many Christians away from the Lord Jesus Christ, and add to the ammunition of critics of the faith.  God forbid.  

Todd K. Weber (Nov. 2002)


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