Welcome, complegalitarians! I notice you are coming over in droves. Enjoy.
As I noted in the first installment in this series, Sarah Sumner stands out among evangelicals insofar as she seeks to forge a consensus among comps and egals and identify a common scriptural and theological ground on which both sides might stand. A bibliography is offered below.
But for consensus to be created, there have to be people who seek it. Since I serve as a pastor in the United Methodist Church, an ideologically diverse church if there ever was one, I am familiar with the amount of damage a tiny but vocal minority of either the left or right can do by riding roughshod over the views of others. The use of smear tactics by these minorities is all too common. They are not interested in consensus at all. For the pasdaran of the left and the right, the logic of “if you are not with me, you are against me” rules, and overwhelms the possibility of genuine dialogue.
As a confessionally engaged biblical scholar, I have a bottom line: it should be possible to discuss the meaning of biblical texts with the intention of allowing them to speak to us on their own terms, rather than exaggerating their weight when they “score one for our side,” or engaging in damage control when they do not support the position we hold dear.
In non-evangelical circles, it is easy to find egalitarian scholars – Carolyn Osiek and Bonnie Thurston come to mind – who do not hesitate to point out how the New Testament “household codes,” for example, pour the content of the gospel into patriarchal molds without breaking or wishing to break the molds themselves.
That kind of honesty among some evangelical egalitarian scholars, it seems to me, is rare. The reason, I think, is obvious. The old polemical premise of Bible thumperdom is that Scripture’s purpose is to prove that the views of an opponent are incompatible with biblical teaching. According to that template, the Bible is a bludgeon to hit someone over the head with. If someone hits you over the head with the Bible, well, you hit right back. When you think about, it’s pretty childish, except that, believe me, it’s no pillow fight.
In the case of ideological comps and egals alike, the strange idea that biblical teaching offers support for both points of view is something they cannot get into their heads. Yet that, I submit, is an almost obvious truth.
If it is the truth, it is necessary to seek a synthesis whereby the legitimate emphases of both sides find a place, as in fact they do within the Bible itself.
Wayne Leman, a member of the blogging team of Complegalitarian, a blog dedicated to genuine dialogue between comps and egals, recently noted the following:
[Sarah] Sumner does believe that egalitarians can move more closely to a biblical position, just as she believes complementarians can. She is a welcome prophetic voice in the polarizing debates today. I highly recommend reading what she has written.
Like Wayne, I feel it is imperative to get
beyond the “either / or” logic that has long dominated the discussion of this issue among
To be sure, I have an “either / or” I’m not willing to give up: either you are honest and willing to point out passages in the Bible which do not easily support your position, or you are not. If you are not, denial and self-deception rule the roost, and nothing good will come of your efforts, no matter how well-intentioned.
For general resources on the comp egal debate among evangelicals, I refer the reader to the sidebar of Complegalitarian. However, I am unsatisfied with that list. At this stage of the game, it would be especially helpful to point to resources penned by “honest” comps and egals in the sense I am using “honest” here: comps and egals with a demonstrated awareness of the tendency of their side to over-reach in the debate and deform the Scriptural witness in the process.
UPDATE: Thanks, Mass Theology, for the link. You folks have an interesting blog.
Select Sarah Sumner Bibliography
Men and Women in the Church: Building Consensus on Christian Leadership (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003); “Bridging the Ephesians 5 Divide - a fresh look at what this controversial passage says – and doesn’t say,” Christianity Today (November 18, 2005); “Forging a Middle Way between Complementarians and Egalitarians,” in Women, Ministry and the Gospel (ed. Mark Husbands and Timothy Larsen; Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2007); “The Husband's Headship,” presentation at the National ETS meeting in San Diego, 2007; Jim and Sarah Sumner, Just How Married Do You Want to Be? (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, forthcoming 2008)
Select Carolyn Osiek Bibliography
Beyond Anger: On Being a Feminist in the Church (New York: Paulist Press, 1986); “The Feminist and the Bible: Hermeneutical Alternatives,” Hervormde Teologiese Studies 53 (1997) 956-968; “Perpetua’s Husband,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 10 (2002) 287-290; “Did Early Christians Teach, or Merely Assume, Male Headship?” in Does Christianity Teach Male Headship? (ed. David Blankenhorn, Don Browning, and Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004) 23-27; “Who Submits to Whom? Submission and Mutuality in the Family,” in Mutuality Matters: Family, Faith, Just Love (ed. by Herbert Anderson, et al., Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004) 57-64.
Carolyn Osiek and David L. Balch. Families in the New Testament World: Households and House Churches (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997); Carolyn Osiek, Margaret Y. MacDonald, and Janet H. Tulloch, A Woman's Place: House Churches in Earliest Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006).
Select Bonnie Thurston Bibliography
Reading Colossians, Ephesians, and 2 Thessalonians: A Literary and Theological Commentary (London: Smith & Helwys, 1999); “1 Timothy 5:3-6 and the Leadership of Women in the Early Church,” in A Feminist Companion to the Deutero-Pauline Epistles (ed. Amy-Jill Levine; Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2003) 159-174; Women in the New Testament: Questions and Commentary (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 1994).
Here is a complete list of posts in this series:
- What is the Debate between Complementarians and Egalitarians really about?
- The Comp Egal Debate: Honesty is Such a Lonely Word
- The Comp Egal Debate: What does it mean that “the husband is the head of the wife”?
- The Comp Egal Debate: A Distorted View of Headship
- The Comp Egal Debate: A biblical definition of a wife’s submission to her husband
- The Comp Egal Debate: A “purely” historical take on Ephesians 5:22-33
- Sarah Sumner on the Need for Integrity in the Comp Egal Debate